The controversial communist country North Korea was recently warned about the various human rights abuses its leaders and officials have committed. In a long-awaited United Nations (UN) report, it detailed evidences of crimes against humanity committed in North Korea. According to a group of experts tasked by the UN’s Human Rights Council, North Koreans had suffered injustices at the hands of their leaders. The current supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, must face justice for these acts, the experts added.
Michael Kirby, the chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, said the document “calls for attention from the international community.” Speaking before reporters at a news conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Kirby added that he has seen so many reports in the UN, but no specific actions were taken, but this time, in North Korea’s case, action must be done especially on an international level.
The report also recommended the UN must see to it that those responsible for these crimes against humanity be held accountable by referring the case to the UN tribunal or the International Court of Justice. Aside from this, the report also suggested increased monitoring of rights abuses in North Korea.
Included in the report are abuses such as complete abolition of the freedom of speech and religion, deep discrimination against women in all aspects of society, a state-assigned class system that also promotes widespread discrimination, food being used to control North Koreans into submission, political prisoners left to die in prison camps as well as the military and other security forces systematically using violence to impose state rules and create an atmosphere of fear.
The 400-page UN report also details the public hearings and private interviews conducted on 320 witnesses who were victims of these human rights abuses. The testimonies came from defectors, which include former prison guards and prisoners. The hearings were conducted in Japan, South Korea, Britain and the United States.
One witness who is a survivor of North Korea’s many prison camps told the panel about seeing a guard beat a starving prisoner who just gave birth and forcing the woman to drown her baby. Based on the findings, many were imprisoned for watching soap operas, traveling without permission, finding food for their families and being tagged as a suspect by the government. One survivor recounted the experience of seeing many people die: “I’m sorry to say that we became so used to it that we didn’t feel anything.”
A copy of the report was furnished and forwarded to Pyongyang for possible comments several weeks ago. A letter was also sent to Kim, warning him that he could face prosecution for these crimes. In a two-page North Korean official statement, it said the report was an “instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system.” The violations that were listed in the report “do not exist in our country.” These are just meant to defame North Korea, the statement added. The North Korean diplomatic mission in Geneva also reiterated that they will oppose any pressure and attempt of regime change under the pretext of “human rights protection.”
Many observers, however, believe that if the panel refers the case of North Korea to the Hague-based International Criminal Court, North Korea’s only ally, China will most likely use its veto power in the UN Security Council to prevent such from happening. If this is the case, Kirby suggested establishing an ad hoc tribunal like the one created in the case against the former Yugoslavia.
This unparalleled public warning to a head of state by the UN will most likely further antagonize Kim and complicate world efforts to encourage him to refrain from pursuing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, analysts noted.
With these latest accusations and warnings of the UN against North Korea about the various human rights abuses its leaders and officials have committed, the world meanwhile awaits an outcome.
By Roberto I. Belda