UN panel finds crimes against humanity in North Korea

Panel's recommends that is findings be referred to the International Criminal Court

A UN panel has found evidence of systematic human rights violations in North Korea.
AFP/Getty Images

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry has found that crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea and recommended its findings be referred to the International Criminal Court, two people familiar with the commission's report told The Associated Press.

The commission, which conducted a yearlong investigation, has found evidence of an array of such crimes, including "extermination," "crimes against humanity against starving populations" and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan.

Its report, due for release on Monday, did not examine in detail individual responsibility for the alleged crimes, but recommended steps toward accountability.

An outline of the conclusions was provided to the AP by an individual familiar with its contents who spoke on condition of anonymity to divulge the information before its formal release. A U.S. official, speaking anonymously for the same reason, confirmed those conclusions.

The three-member commission, led by a retired Australian judge, was set up by the U.N.'s top human rights body last March in the most serious international attempt yet to probe evidence of systematic rights violations in the reclusive, authoritarian state, which is notorious for its political prison camps, repression and famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 1990s.

The lengthy report concluded that the testimony and other information it received "create reasonable grounds ... to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice."

The commission, which conducted public hearings with more than 80 victims and other witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington but was not allowed into North Korea itself, recommended that the U.N. Security Council refer its findings to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

That appears unlikely to happen, given likely opposition among permanent council members that have veto power, such as China.

But the commission also recommended that the U.N. General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should extend the mandate of special human rights monitoring of North Korea. It proposed the Geneva-based council establish a "structure" to help ensure accountability, in particular on crimes against humanity, that would build on evidence and documentation the commission has compiled.

It said the work of that structure should "facilitate United Nations efforts to prosecute or otherwise render accountable, those most responsible for crimes against humanity."

The Associated Press

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