The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday voted to create an expert group that will be tasked with exploring legal pathways to hold North Korea's leadership accountable for widespread and horrific rights abuses in the country, AFP reported.
The UN's top rights body adopted a resolution voicing deep concern at the findings in a landmark 2014 report that North Korea is wracked by "widespread and gross human rights violations … that in many instances, constitute crimes against humanity," and which are "pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades."
Condemning the "impunity of perpetrators", the resolution, which passed by consensus, called on the office of UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein to "designate, for a period of six months, a maximum of two existing independent experts" to help the UN's main rights expert on North Korea.
The new expert group, the resolution said, should "focus on issues of accountability for human rights violations in the country, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity", noted AFP.
It will be tasked with recommending "practical mechanisms of accountability to secure truth and justice for the victims," including referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Last month, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, issued a report calling for Pyongyang's leadership to be held criminally responsible for egregious abuses.
The report said the UN should advise North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "and other senior leaders that they may be investigated and, if found to be responsible, held accountable for crimes against humanity committed under their leadership."
North Korea continues to make headlines, after it recently conducted several missile tests, the last one having taken place last week, as a well as a test in which it claimed to have fired a hydrogen bomb.
The UN Security Council responded to North Korea's provocations earlier this month by imposing its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date.
And, last week, the Obama administration for the first time imposed sanctions on broad sectors of the North Korean economy, prohibiting U.S. businesses from conducting any trade with North Korean entities engaged in finance, transportation, mining and energy.