North Korea seeks U.N. probe of 'CIA torture crimes'

By Stephanie Nebehay
North Korea seeks U.N. probe of 'CIA torture crimes'

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea called on Thursday for the top United Nations human rights body to investigate allegations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture in the George W. Bush era, that were contained in a recent Senate report.

The move, announced by So Se Pyong, ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the U.N. in Geneva, puts more strain on ties with Washington, following U.S. accusations that Pyongyang was behind a cyber attack on Sony Pictures. North Korea denies those accusations.

So told a news briefing that the issue of the "CIA torture crimes" should be put on the agenda of the U.N. Human Rights Council which meets from March 2-27.

"Today I also sent the letter to the president of the Human Rights Council to formally discuss the issue of the CIA case at the upcoming session, including establishing an independent commission of inquiry mandated to make a thorough investigation of CIA torture crimes," So said.

His letter to German Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, current president of the 47-member state forum, reads: "The CIA torture crimes, which have been conducted in the most brutal medieval forms and unanimously denunciated worldwide ... deserve severe punishment by the international community".

American civil rights groups last month called on the U.S. Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the CIA's use of torture and other extreme measures during interrogations, following a Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Obama administration officials have said the Justice Department has no plans to reopen its investigation into the conduct of CIA interrogators toward detainees captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A U.N. commission of inquiry established by the council last year issued a report alleging that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity, including mass killings and torture comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

North Korea has launched a campaign to discredit the report, following news that one prominent defector had recanted parts of his testimony.

"The whole story of that report depends on the defectors lies, fabricated stories," So said. "It is a bitter shame for the United Nations to be involved in the racket against the DPRK on the basis of false information."

Michael Kirby, an Australian judge who headed the U.N. inquiry, said the changes in the defector's account did not affect its findings which were based on testimony by hundreds of Koreans.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)