A UN committee has called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court over its human rights record.
The human rights committee passed a motion seeking a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Pyongyang regime.
The motion still needs to be voted on by the General Assembly itself.
A groundbreaking UN report released in February revealed ordinary North Koreans faced “unspeakable atrocities”.
The UN Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea after hearing evidence of torture, political repression and other crimes.
It led to Tuesday’s non-binding vote, which was passed with 111 countries in favour and 19 against, with 55 abstentions.
China and Russia, which hold veto power on the Security Council, voted against the motion.
The resolution also condemned North Korea for its poor human rights record, and urged the Security Council to consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crimes.
Michael Kirby, who chaired the report, described the move as “an important step in the defence of human rights”.
“One of the only ways in which the International Criminal Court can secure jurisdiction is by referral by the Security Council. That is the step that has been put in train by the big vote in New York,” he said.