By Leigha Wentz,
International News Writer
A United Nations panel has given notice to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he may be held responsible in court for crimes against humanity committed by state institutions and officials under his direct control.
The letter, conveying this notice, comes as part of a report made by the panel to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and was released on Monday after a yearlong investigation.
The panel chairman, retired Australian judge Michael Donald Kirby, summarized the investigation’s findings of crimes against humanity committed by officials that are suspected of acting under Mr. Kim’s personal command.
In Judge Kirby’s letter to the North Korean dictator, dated January 20, Mr. Kim was informed that the panel would recommend that the United Nations Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“I hope that the international community will be moved by the detail, the amount, the long duration, the great suffering, and the many tears that have existed in North Korea to act on the crimes against humanity,” Judge Kirby told reporters in the Geneva offices of the United Nations on Monday.
“Too many times in this building there are reports and no action. Well, now is a time for action. We can’t say we didn’t know,” he added, as quoted by the Times.
The resulting call for an international criminal investigation by the United Nations marks the most serious attempt yet to probe evidence of grave and systematic rights violations by the reclusive nation.
“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) said in a statement.
In excerpts taken from the detail, it has been reported that the crimes against humanity that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is accused of include “extermination,” murder, enslavement, and torture, including a process known as “pigeon torture” in which victims’ hands are handcuffed behind their backs to metal bars attached to the walls so that those suffering are unable to either sit or stand.
The panel’s statement added that additional crimes include imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial, and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons, and prolonged starvation.
North Korea denounced the report as a fabrication created by the nation’s enemies, including the United States and South Korea.
In a statement from the North Korean Mission in Geneva, the nation said that such rights violations do not exist and that the findings were “an instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system.”
International condemnation immediately followed the report’s release. The US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Horf said that she strongly welcomed the report as an opportunity to continue “to raise awareness of and address the deplorable human rights conditions in the DPRK.”
China, North Korea’s strongest ally and protector in the international community, stated Monday that it would oppose any move by the UN to refer the matter to the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity.
It said in a statement that submitting the report “will not help resolve the human rights situation in one country.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 print edition.
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