A United Nations panel has warned Kim Jong-un that he may be tried for crimes against humanity committed by himself and state officials under his direct control.
The 372-page report is the result of a yearlong research project on human rights issues in North Korea. It is based on evidence provided at public hearings by at least 80 witnesses and victims, as well as direct interviews with 240 others. It is seen by human rights activists as the most comprehensive and detailed research to date of the dire situation inside North Korea.
Throughout the report experts chronicle the horrific situation faced by refugees fleeing the country as well as prisoners inside the country’s numerous concentration camps. Forced abortions, public executions, and mass starvation are among the horrific realities of life in North Korea, according to the authors of the report.
Michael Kirby is the chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry that produced the report.
Kirby says that the report specifically targets Kim because of his direct involvement in persecuting his own people. “A great deal of responsibility must lie on such a person. If you are at the center, then you have power to change things,” he said.
The panel that produced the report asked the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where Kim would face justice for his crimes. This is unlikely, however, due to China’s likely veto of any such action in the U.N. Security Council.
In 2011, Kim Hye Sook, the panel's chief witness against the state, told CBN News about the 28 years she spent in a North Korean concentration camp.
“Often these prisoners were killed over petty things, like stealing food,” she said. “The guards would always gather other prisoners to watch the execution. It was a form of intimidation. The command was then given to fire at the prisoners.”
Kirby said that many of the crimes committed by the North Korean regime against its own people are reminiscent of those committed in Nazi Germany.
“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.
“Testimony was given ... in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried ... It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he added.
An estimated 50,000-70,000 Christians are held in North Korea’s concentration camp system, according to Open Doors, a human rights organization working on behalf of persecuted believers.
Judge Kirby hopes the report will be a catalyst for action.
“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,” he told reporters in Geneva on Monday.
“Too many times in this building there are reports and no action,” he added. “Well, now is a time for action. We can’t say we didn’t know.”
Kristin Wright is a writer covering human rights, women’s issues, and religious freedom for ReligionToday.com and The Huffington Post, among other publications. Wright has worked with victims of trafficking in Mumbai’s “red light” district, interviewed individuals on both sides of the conflict in Israel and the West Bank, and worked with victims of rape and forced marriage in Pakistan. Wright recently returned from a trip to the Syrian border where she interviewed refugees fleeing the conflict. She currently serves in the Office of the President at Open Doors USA.
Publication date: February 19, 2014