A United Nations inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that the totalitarian state’s leader, Kim Jong Un, should face trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
These include “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence,” the commissioners said in a final report published in Geneva yesterday. They found evidence of between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners, a number that had fallen “owing to deaths.” In the ordinary prison system, torture, rape, deliberate starvation and forced labor are widespread.
“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” the commission said. “The key to the political system is the vast political and security apparatus that strategically uses surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment to preclude the expression of any dissent.”
The report paints a picture at odds with that presented domestically by North Korea, where Kim, the third member of his family to lead the nation, offers an image of socialist prosperity. The request for action from the International Criminal Court will have to be approved by the UN Security Council, two of whose permanent members, China and Russia, who have consistently opposed UN Human Rights Council resolutions on North Korea.
The commission found that China forcibly repatriates people who flee North Korea. Where these include pregnant women, they face forced abortions on their return. Babies born to repatriated women are often killed, in an effort to prevent mixed-race children.
The report singled out Kim, believed to be about 30 years old, for criticism, saying “large amounts” are spent on “luxury goods and the advancement of his personality cult instead of providing food to the starving general population.” Military spending in the country has taken priority over feeding the hungry, “even during periods of mass starvation.”
Kim took over as North Korean leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, died at the end of 2011. In December, he executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, after a special military tribunal convicted him of factionalism, graft and plotting a coup, signaling he is control of the North Korean regime.
South Korea “appreciates” the inquiry’s efforts leading to the report and plans to tighten international cooperation to improve North Korean human conditions following its release, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.
Reunions of southern and northern families split by the Korean War, which ended 61 years ago, are due to begin Feb. 20.
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