On Tuesday February 18 the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, asked world
powers to refer the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the
prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This comes not in
response to their nuclear efforts, but to a recent U.N. report which documents crimes
against humanity that have been, and still are, occurring in the isolated,
impoverished country of North Korea.
The 400 page report
catalogues cases of torture, deliberate starvation, and other abuses carried
out by North Korean authorities and possibly by order of leader Kim Jong Un. The abuses that the country is perpetrating
against its own citizens are being compared to the horrors inflicted by some of
the Axis powers during World War II. Inquiry chairman Michael Kirby stated that
there were “many parallels” between the types of crimes allegedly being
committed in North Korea and those that were committed by the Nazis. The report concludes that “hundreds of
thousands of political prisoners have perished in prison camps over the past
The report was also
accompanied by a three-page letter to the leader Kim Jong Un warning that he
could be held liable for these atrocities under international law. The North Korean government responded saying
the report “is nothing more than an instrument of political plot aimed at
sabotaging the socialist system by defaming the dignified images of the DPRK
and creating an atmosphere of international pressure under the pretext of
‘human rights protection.’”
China, a staunch ally of
North Korea, has already stated that it would not approve of any human rights
charges against North Korea being sent to the ICC. According to a Chinese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying, “[s]ubmitting human
rights issues to the International Court of Justice won’t help improve a
country’s human rights condition.” China would most likely veto any decision to
bring charges against North Korea due to the close ties between the countries.
The report makes note of this connection and criticizes the Chinese policy of
sending North Korean refugees who have crossed the border back, even though
they are sure to face abuse and detention upon their return.
It is unclear, as of now,
whether any prosecution will be pursued against North Korea by the ICC, but the
report urges the international community to take action. Kirby hopes that “the international community
will be moved by this report” due to the gruesome information obtained from
hundreds of witnesses. With this sort of information now coming to
light the international community must work together and decide on a plan of action
before the situation gets any worse.
of Inquiry, Report of the Detailed Findings
of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea, A/HRC/25/CRP.1 (Feb. 7, 2014).
 Peter Walker, North Korea Human Rights Abuses
Resemble Those of the Nazis, Says UN Inquiry, The Guardian (Feb. 17, 2014), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/17/north-korea-human-rights-abuses-united-nations.
 Mark Memmott, U.N. Report Details North
Korea’s ‘Crimes Against Humanity’, NPR (Feb. 17, 2014), http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/17/278461563/u-n-report-details-north-koreas-crimes-against-humanity.
 Julie Makinen and Barbara Demick, U.N. Report
Catalogs North Korean ‘Crimes Against Humanity’, L.A. Times (Feb. 17, 2014 8:27 PM), http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-un-north-korea-20140218-story.html.
 Pearson, Hanna, and Park, ‘Abundant Evidence’
of Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, panel says, CNN (Feb. 18, 2017 6:50 AM), http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/north-korea-un-report/.
 Walker, supra note 2.
 Makinen and Demick, supra note 4.
Posted by Ian A. Biggs on Wed. April 16, 2014 1:00 PM
International Criminal Court, International Law, North Korea, United Nations