UN Investigator: North Korea Crimes Are “Strikingly Similar” to Those Perpetrated by Nazis

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 17 2014 12:05 PM

UN Investigator: North Korea Crimes Are “Strikingly Similar” to Those Perpetrated by Nazis

180875768-chairperson-of-the-un-commission-of-inquiry-on-human
Chairperson of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in North Korea, Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby gestures during a press conference

Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Senior North Korean officials—and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un—must face justice for the “unspeakable atrocities” the isolated regime has imposed on its own people, including torture, starvation and killings. Michael Kirby, the chairmen of the independent commission that wrote up the 372-page report on North Korea said the experts responsible for the findings catalogued a series of crimes that were reminiscent of the Nazi era. “Some of them are strikingly similar,” he told Reuters.

The panel of experts that wrote up the report on orders of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council wrote a letter directly to Kim, telling North Korea’s leader they would advise the United Nations to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court to make sure anyone guilty of the crimes “including possibly yourself” would be held accountable. The report also made a reference to how China was “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” in North Korea. It is Beijing’s connection to North Korea that makes any referral to the Hague-based ICC unlikely, considering the move could easily be vetoed by China. That’s why there is now increasing talk of setting up a special tribunal on North Korea, sources tell Reuters. Pyongyang strongly rejected the accusations saying the report was based on information given by enemies of the North Korean regime.

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The report gathers lots of horrific testimony from defectors that amounts to “a stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse” suffered in North Korea, as CNN notes. There’s the woman forced to drown her own baby, a 13-year-old who told a guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera, to name a few detailed by the BBC. That’s why the United Nations panel says North Korea “does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” Although the abuses were already widely known, the experts responsible for the report expressed hope that having them all laid out in one document would force the world to act. "We cannot say we didn't know," Kirby said. "We now do know."

The full report (in PDF format) is available here.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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