Call for international investigation into North Korean 'crimes against humanity'
Just how bad is Kim Jong Un's North Korea?
A UN investigation has revealed, exterminations, forced starvations and kidnapping among other crimes.
A U.N. panel has found that crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea and will call for an international criminal investigation, The Associated Press has learned.
The report, to be released Monday, is the most authoritative account yet of rights violations by North Korean authorities, and it is bound to infuriate the country's unpredictable leader. But justice remains a distant prospect, not least as North Korea's ally, China, would be likely to block any referral to the International Criminal Court.
The commission, which conducted a yearlong investigation, has found evidence of an array of crimes, including "extermination," crimes against humanity against starving populations and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan.
Its report does not examine in detail individual responsibility for crimes but recommends steps toward accountability. It could also build international pressure on North Korea, whose dire rights record has drawn less censure at the U.N. than its nuclear and missile programs have. North Korea's hereditary regime has shrugged off years of continuous outside pressure, including tough U.N. and U.S. sanctions directed at its weapons programs.
An outline of the report's conclusions was provided to the AP by an individual familiar with its contents who was not authorized to divulge the information before its formal release and who spoke on condition of anonymity. A U.S. official, speaking anonymously for the same reason, confirmed the main conclusions.
It has been charged in the past that the North Korean government has used food as a weapon against its internal enemies. And the routine hostage taking by the government has been well documented. Both are serious international crimes, but prosecuting them is going to be difficult:
The commission, which conducted public hearings with more than 80 victims and other witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington but was not allowed into North Korea, recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer its findings to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
There are several procedural hurdles to the commission's report even being referred to the council, and ultimately, permanent council members that have veto power, such as China, are unlikely to support any referral to the court.
Another obstacle is that the court's jurisdiction does not extend to crimes committed before July 2002, when its statute came into force. An alternative - the kind of ad hoc tribunals set up in Cambodia and Sierra Leone - also appears unlikely, at least for now. Those tribunals were formed with the consent of their current governments.
But the commission leaves open other avenues for action.
It recommends that the U.N. General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should extend the mandate of special human rights monitoring of North Korea, and it proposes the Geneva-based council establish a structure to help ensure accountability, in particular regarding crimes against humanity, that would build on evidence and documentation the commission has compiled.
The commission concluded that the North Koreans are guilty of "decisions and policies taken for the purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population."