Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

UN commission concludes crimes against humanity committed in NKorea

FILE - This Oct. 30, 2013 file photo shows Jin hye Jo wiping a tear as she testifies during a hearing of the United Nations mandated Commission of Inquiry about the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Washington. Her father was tortured in detention in North Korea and died. Her elder sister went searching for food during the great famine of the 1990s, only to be trafficked to China. Her two younger brothers died of starvation, one of them a baby without milk whose life ebbed away in her arms. Jin Hye Jo tearfully told her family's story Wednesday to U.N. investigators during a public hearing in Washington, their latest stop in a globe-trotting effort to probe possible crimes against humanity in North Korea. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Enlarge Image

FILE - This Oct. 30, 2013 file photo shows Jin hye Jo wiping a tear as she testifies during a hearing of the United Nations mandated Commission of Inquiry about the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Washington. Her father was tortured in detention in North Korea and died. Her elder sister went searching for food during the great famine of the 1990s, only to be trafficked to China. Her two younger brothers died of starvation, one of them a baby without milk whose life ebbed away in her arms. Jin Hye Jo tearfully told her family's story Wednesday to U.N. investigators during a public hearing in Washington, their latest stop in a globe-trotting effort to probe possible crimes against humanity in North Korea. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON - A U.N. panel has found 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 is bound to infuriate its 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 parlous rights record has drawn less censure at the U.N. than its nuclear and missile programs. 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 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.

The three-member commission, led by retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, was set up by the U.N.'s top human rights body last March in the most serious international attempt yet to probe evidence of systematic and grave rights violations in the reclusive, authoritarian state, which is notorious for its political prisons camps, repression and famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 1990s.

The report concludes that the testimony and other information it received, "create reasonable grounds ... to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice."

A spokesman for North Korea's U.N. Mission in New York who refused to give his name told the AP: "We totally reject the unfounded findings of the Commission of Inquiry regarding crimes against humanity. We will never accept that."

David Hawk, a former U.N. human rights official and a leading researcher on North Korean prison camps, said that legal scholars, human rights attorneys and nongovernment groups have previously concluded crimes against humanity have been committed, but this would be the first time experts authorized by U.N. member states have made that determination. Hawk testified before the commission, but has not seen its report.

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 itself, 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 will formally present its findings to the rights council on March 17, and the 48-member body will likely consider which of the report's recommendations it wants to support.

Last October, Kirby told the General Assembly that when the commission delivers its final report, "the international community will be obliged to face its responsibilities and decide what concrete action it will take" to protect the North Korean people.

Testimony by North Korean defectors at last year's hearings produced chilling accounts of systematic rape, murder and torture, and suffering during the famine of the late 1990s. The commission says it plans to release on Monday, along with the report, a 372-page document with excerpts of witness testimony.

The report refers to murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, sexual violence, forcible transfers and forced disappearances, and persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds. It also cites the overall system of political repression, the "songbun" class system that discriminates against North Koreans on the basis of their family's perceived loyalty to the regime, and executions and punishment through forced labour in the North's gulag.

Other than speaking to defectors, the commission heard from experts about North Korea's network of camps, estimated to hold 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, and about access to food in the country, where many children suffer stunted growth because of malnutrition. It examined the causes of the 1990s famine and to what extent it was due to natural disasters — as the authoritarian regime of then-leader Kim Jong Il claimed — or to mismanagement.

The report identifies crimes against humanity committed through "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."

When the Human Rights Council authorized the commission last March, the North denounced it as politically motivated by "hostile forces" trying to discredit it and change its socialist system.

The other two members of the commission are Sonja Biserko, a Serbian human rights expert, and Marzuki Darusman, a senior Indonesian jurist who has also served as the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea since 2010.

_____

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media