GENEVA, Nov. 18, 2014 – NGOs hailed the UN adoption today of a draft resolution, introduced by the EU and Japan in the UNGA’s 193-member Third Committee, asking the Security Council to refer the situation of North Korean rights abuses to the International Criminal Court, and to initiate sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

“Finally, the UN has sent the message today that North Korean rulers who starve and enslave their own people must be held accountable,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva–based human rights organization that works closely with North Korean victims. “This is a powerful boost to millions of victims suffering in what is arguably the worst situation of human rights abuse on the planet.” UN Watch has brought numerous North Korean defectors to testify before the UN Human Rights Council, and at the group’s annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights.

Top North Korean defectors also welcomed the vote.

“The resolution will have a huge impact in North Korea, as the people there will learn that their leader is a criminal. People will be happy and as a North Korean defector I am also happy,” said Ahn Myeong Cheol, a prominent North Korean defector now in Geneva to urge UN action. Ahn’s visit this week, organized by UN Watch, has been reported on CNN and other major media.

Neuer expressed concern that Security Council action, the next step, is likely to be blocked by a Chinese veto. “If that happens, the international community can still take their own action, such as by identifying and freezing the assets of North Korean regime figures around the world.”

Last month, UN Watch organized a letter by 20 North Korean defectors urging Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to freeze Swiss bank accounts held by North Korean regime figures. The appeal and recent Swiss presidential response were reported by CNN, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

“Countries around the world need to freeze assets of the North Korean regime,” said Ahn, “because it brings more suffering to the people of North Korea while the regime figures enjoy a luxurious life.” Many of the North Korean funds around the world come from illegal activities and exploitation of North Korean laborers outside of the country.

UN Watch and NK Watch, Ahn’s group, pledged to continue to advocate for identifying and freezing North Korean assets, working in coloration with partners around the world.

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