UN to open N Korea rights office in Seoul

The UN plans to open a field office in Seoul next Tuesday to systematically monitor North Korea's human rights situation, ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang to end its deeply rooted inhumane practices.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will establish the office in line with the recommendation by its Commission of Inquiry in February 2014 to take measures, including instituting the field structure, to address Pyongyang's human rights violations.

The office, with five to six staff members, will be housed in the Seoul Global Center building in downtown Seoul. The office created Twitter and Facebook accounts this week to promote its activities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, along with senior Seoul officials, is expected to attend the opening ceremony. It would be the first time in five years for the UN human rights chief to visit Seoul.

The establishment of the office is expected to draw another angry response from the North, which has long accused the US, South Korea and other critics of its human rights record of politicizing the issue and meddling in its domestic affairs.

The new office reflects the growing international concerns over Pyongyang's mishandling of its citizens, which was underscored in the Commission of Inquiry report.

The COI report found evidence of torture, execution, arbitrary incarceration, deliberate starvation, enslavement and other appalling practices that it said amounted to "crimes against humanity." In particular, it indicated that high-level Pyongyang officials responsible for the abuses could be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The report went further, calling on the international community to accept its "responsibility to protect" the North Korean people. It said the regime in Pyongyang had "manifestly failed" to protect its people.

The responsibility to protect calls on the international community to take responsibility to protect citizens of a country that fails to safeguard its people from atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

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