The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the
United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal
Court (ICC), to ensure any culprits "including possibly yourself"
were held accountable.
North Korea said it "categorically and totally" rejected the
investigators' report, which it called "a product of politicization
of human rights on the part of EU and Japan in alliance with the
U.S. hostile policy".
The unprecedented public warning and rebuke to a ruling head of
state by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry is likely to complicate
efforts to persuade the isolated country to rein in its nuclear
weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and
The U.N. investigators said they had also told Kim's main ally China
that it might be "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" by
sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea, where they faced
torture and execution — a charge that Chinese officials had
As referral to the ICC is seen as a dim hope, given China's likely
veto of any such move by Western powers in the U.N. Security
Council, thoughts are also turning to setting up some form of
special tribunal on North Korea, diplomatic and U.N. sources told
"We've collected all the testimony and can't just stop and wait 10
years. The idea is to sustain work," said one.
"REMINISCENT OF NAZI ATROCITIES"
Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry,
told Reuters the crimes the team had catalogued in a 372-page report
were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.
"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 said.
The independent investigators' report, the size of a telephone
directory, listing atrocities including murder, torture, rape,
abductions, enslavement, starvation and executions.
"The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state
that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," it said.
The findings came out of a yearlong investigation involving public
testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at
hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.
Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of
his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he
informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to
escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life
called "Escape from Camp 14".
North Korea's diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings
shortly before they were made public. "We will continue to strongly
respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure
under the pretext of 'human rights protection'," it said a statement
sent to Reuters.
[to top of second column]
The abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that
ultimately reported to Kim — state security, the Ministry of
People's Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers' Party of
Korea, according to the investigators, led by Kirby, a retired
Australian chief justice.
"It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances,
acting under your personal control," Kirby wrote in the three-page
letter to Kim published as part of the report.
The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials
and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not
reveal any names, but said that it had compiled a database of
suspects from evidence and testimony.
Pyongyang has used food as "a means of control over the population"
and "deliberate starvation" to punish political and ordinary
prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.
Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent. Christians were
persecuted and women faced blatant discrimination. People were sent
to prison camps without hope of release.
The investigators were not able to confirm allegations of "gruesome
medical testing of biological and chemical weapons" on disabled
people and political prisoners, but said they wanted to investigate
North Korea's extermination of political prisoners over the past
five decades might amount to genocide, the report said, although the
legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large
parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.
North Korean migrants and defectors returned by China regularly
faced torture, detention, summary execution and forced abortion,
said the report.
Kirby warned China's charge d'affaires in Geneva Wu Haitao in a Dec
16 letter that the forced repatriations might amount to "the aiding
and abetting (of) crimes against humanity", it said.
Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said that the fact that
some of the illegal North Korean migrants regularly managed to get
back into China after their return showed that the allegations of
torture were not true.
"The DPRK (North Korea) has been looked at by the Security Council
solely as a nuclear proliferation issue," Julie de Rivero of
campaign group Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
"This (report) is putting human rights in the DPRK on the map, which
it wasn't before, and hopefully will put the spotlight on the U.N.
and international community to respond to not just the security
threat," she added.
(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay;
editing by Andrew
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