Tuesday, February 18, 2014

International justice for North Korea

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has found that the North Korean regime is committing crimes against humanity on a scale not seen since Nazi Germany:

A prisoner is forced to haul emaciated corpses up a mountain ready for burning so their ash can be used as fertiliser but sees that the flesh on their faces has been gnawed away by rats. Horrified inmates watch as a guard angered by the crying of a baby forces its mother to drown it face down in a bucket of water.

These are just two in a litany of alleged “unspeakable atrocities” described in a nearly 400-page report released by an independent UN panel of inquiry into the North Korean regime and its decades-long subjugation of its citizens through incarceration, enforced starvation, torture, rape, enslavement and sexual abuse. “Hundreds of thousands” of detainees have lost their lives over 50 years, it claims.

Presenting the report in Geneva, the panel chairman, Michael Kirby, said some of the crimes described evoke those committed by the Nazis, like forcing prisoners to load corpses into pots for burning. “At the end of the Second World War so many people said ‘if only we had known... if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces’,” he said. “Well, now the international community does know... There will be no excusing of failure of action because we didn’t know.”

The Commission of Inquiry is recommending that the UN security Council refer the North Korean regime to the International Criminal Court, or in the event of a big power veto, for the UN General Assembly to create an ad-hoc tribunal to do it instead. I agree. The international community has looked the other way on atrocities like this for too long; its time for international justice to prevail.