North Korea's ambassador told UN rights diplomats to "mind your own business" before they voted on Friday to demand the country face international justice for crimes against humanity likened to Nazi-era atrocities.

UN investigators said last month security chiefs and possibly Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should be tried for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings, saying the crimes were "strikingly similar" to those committed during World War Two.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution, brought by Japan and the EU and backed by the U.S. and South Korea, calling for the UN Security Council to hold to account those responsible.

Some 30 states voted in favour, six including China and Russia were against, with 11 abstaining.

During the debate, North Korean ambassador So Se Pyong rejected the resolution, telling the talks: "Mind your own business," drawing laughter from delegates on the last day of a four-week session to examine violations worldwide.

"Cooperation can never be compatible with confrontation."

The resolution recommends "that the report of the COI (commission of inquiry) be submitted through the General Assembly to the Security Council for its consideration and appropriate action, including through consideration of referral of the human rights situation to the appropriate international criminal justice mechanism."

However, Western and Asian powers concede that for now their chances of holding North Korea liable for crimes against humanity and influencing the isolated country are slim.

The UN Human Rights Council also extended the mandate of its investigator on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, by one year and agreed to establish a field office to help him collect more evidence and testimony about allegations including that up to 120,000 people are held in political prison camps.

North Korea denies existence of the camps.

"Overwhelming" evidence

EU Ambassador Mariangela Zappia said the "overwhelming" amount of evidence in the report meant the Council could not remain silent and had to confront North Korea.

"I hate to use the word 'I'm happy' but I think we are very satisfied with the resolution that was adopted, with strong support," she told reporters after the vote.

Activists who have lobbied for scrutiny of North Korea to be widened beyond its disputed nuclear program welcomed the vote.

"Human rights must take centre stage at the UN Security Council when it considers peace and security in the Korean Peninsula," Roseann Rife, of Amnesty International, said.

"The Human Rights Council's response to the commission of inquiry findings is a total game changer for the UN's relations with North Korea," Julie de Rivero, of Human Rights Watch, said.

"Now the UN Security Council and the General Assembly need to determine how to bring North Korea's leaders to justice for their human rights crimes," she said in a statement.

However, Western and Asian powers concede that for now their chances of holding North Korea liable for crimes against humanity are slim.

North Korea could only be referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council, whose veto-wielding members China and Russia both voted against the motion.

The UN Human Rights Council also extended the mandate of its investigator on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, by one year and agreed to set up a field office to help him collect more evidence about allegations including that up to 120,000 people are held in political prison camps.

North Korea denies existence of the camps.

Members of the UN Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea's ballistic missile launch this week as a violation of UN resolutions and will continue discussions on an "appropriate response".