A UN human rights monitor accused North Korea of committing a string of crimes against humanity, laying out a litany of abuses before the world body's top rights forum.
Marzuki Darusman told the UN Human Rights Council that he had identified nine areas of key concern, including depriving the population of food, torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, the use of prison camps and the secretive regime's denial of freedom of expression.
"I believe that many, if not all, of the nine patterns of violation, identified in my present report, may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and or widespread attacks against civilian population," Darusman, who hails from Indonesia, told the Council as he presented a report on the situation in North Korea
He pressed his demands for an international commission of inquiry into the human rights record of North Korea, which repeatedly has refused to cooperate with Darusman and other UN investigators.
Japan and the European Union are set to lodge a resolution at the Council -- which wraps up its month-long sitting on March 22 -- creating such a commission.
Last month, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay decried the "deplorable" situation in North Korea, saying a commission of inquiry was "long overdue".
But North Korea rejected the criticism on Monday, with its delegate Kim Ju-song claiming that Darusman was in league with "hostile forces", citing Japan, the EU and the United States.
"We make it clear again. The human rights violations identified in this report do no exist," Kim said.
"The government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will continue to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people."
North Korea won support at the Council from China, whose delegate said creating a commission of inquiry could "escalate tensions" on the Korean Peninsula.
Iran, Cuba and Venezuela also criticised the plan, calling for dialogue, not naming and shaming, and accusing the West of double standards.