SEOUL, South Korea – A Nobel prize-winning Holocaust survivor, an anti-Soviet dissident and a former European leader called Sunday for U.N. Security Council action on North Korea over its "egregious" human rights record.
Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and later won a Nobel Peace Prize, commissioned a 123-page report detailing North Korean atrocities with dissident playwright turned Czech President Vaclav Havel and a former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik.
In the report, the three said the dispute over the country's nuclear program should not eclipse deadly political repression there, but rather the council should open another path to influence North Korea by taking on leader Kim Jong Il's regime over its treatment of the country's 23 million people.
While a unanimous October Security Council resolution imposed sanctions on North Korea over its Oct. 9 nuclear test, the report is "urging the United Nations to get involved in the North Korea issue also from the human rights perspective," Bondevik said by telephone from Norway.
"Nowhere else in the world today is there such an abuse of rights, as institutionalized as it is in North Korea," Bondevik told the Associated Press. "The leaders are committing crimes against humanity."
The report argues that Security Council action is warranted under a resolution unanimously approved in April by the 15-nation council that endorsed a 2005 agreement aimed at preventing tragedies like the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
North Korea's actions toward its people — like food policies that helped fuel a late-1990s famine that killed as many as 1 million people and a prison system holding some 200,000 political prisoners — present a nontraditional threat to international peace, which the report argues is covered by the recent resolution.
The report, written by law firm DLA Piper and the non-governmental organization U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, urged the Security Council to adopt a non-punitive resolution that would demand unhindered access to North Korea by humanitarian workers, the release of all political prisoners and the admission of U.N. human rights investigators.
The report envisions a diplomatic process parallel to the one dealing with North Korea's nuclear program.
"Although in recent weeks the international focus has been on North Korea's nuclear weapons test, the situation in that country is also one of the most egregious human rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today," the report said.
Reached Friday, the North Korean mission to the United Nations said no officials, including U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon, were available for comment.
Bondevik acknowledged that a resolution on North Korea over its internal policies could be a hard sell for some council members — like China, which is also accused of holding political prisoners.
But he said the threat to international peace posed by North Korea would trump such considerations.
"I hope this report will describe in detail the abuses — and this will encourage the member countries, even China, that we have to act," he said. "We can't wait any longer."