- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 16 (UPI) — The U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution Wednesday that for the first time censures North Korea for serious violations, including torture and public executions, and called on Pyongyang to accept a visit by independent expert monitors.

The resolution initiated by the European Union, and co-sponsored by the United States, Japan and Australia, among others, passed 28-10 with 14 abstentions.

Both China and Russia voted against the motion.

"I think this is a victory for the human rights of the people of North Korea. We hope the government there will take this resolution seriously," Kevin Moley, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, told reporters.

"This is what the business of the human rights commission is all about, pointing at abuses of human rights around the world," he said.

However, the run-up to the vote was marked by last-minute drama after South Korea, a member of the 53-country body, decided not to take part in the ballot due to "strategic thinking."

Seoul does not want to jeopardize the prospects of the three-way nuclear talks next week in Beijing between North Korea, the United States and China, to try and defuse the six-month weapons proliferation stand-off.

While the government in Seoul has come under fire back home for non-participation, Western and Asian diplomats in Geneva said it was a wise move and helped facilitate passage of the resolution.

"It was difficult for them (South Korea,)" said one EU member state ambassador.

Chung Sung Il, responsible for human rights at the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang, in a bid to defeat the motion, told delegates the draft EU resolution "is full of fabrications."

He also voiced his indignation that the 15-country European grouping had exaggerated the human rights situation in the country.

The North Korean envoy also threatened that if the motion was adopted, "we can not rule out any possibility that bilateral cooperation on human rights and normal activities with the EU (would be) confronted with obstacles."

A senior South Korean official told United Press International: "We hope North Korea will take this (resolution) seriously."

Caroline Cox, president of the human rights advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said she hoped the resolution "will prove to be a key step in the international community's resolve to address the large-scale human rights abuses taking place in virtually every sphere across North Korea."

Also Wednesday, an EU-sponsored resolution on human rights abuses by Russia in the breakaway republic of Chechnya was defeated with a vote of 21-15, with 17 abstentions.

The outcome represents a wider margin than last year, when the motion failed by just one vote.

The United States voted in support of the motion.

But Western diplomats and experts said the resolution's outcome was influenced by the Bush administration's failure to co-sponsor the resolution or to divulge its voting intentions until the last moment.

"We think the U.S. position by not co-sponsoring the resolution and not making it known how it will vote, was very unhelpful," Loubna Freih, Human Rights Watch representative, told UPI.

The situation on the ground has worsened in terms of torture, forced disappearances and summary executions over the past year, she said.

"The Russians did their homework," said one Western ambassador, while another indicated the ambivalence of Washington didn't help.

"I think it is damageable to the resolution that the U.S. did not co-sponsor it in the first place," Antoine Madelin, representative for the advocacy group International Federation for Human Rights, told UPI.

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