North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Kim Jong Un, the
leader of the country, should face international justice for
ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to
Nazi-era atrocities, U.N. investigators said on Monday.
The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a head of state by a
U.N. inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate
efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country's nuclear
weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and
The U.N. investigators also told China, the North's main ally, that
it might be "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" by sending
migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture or
execution, a charge that prompted a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
"Of course we cannot accept this unreasonable criticism," Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing on
Tuesday. "We believe that politicizing human rights issues is not
conducive towards improving a country's human rights.
"We believe that taking human rights issues to the International
Criminal Court is not helpful to improving a country's human rights
Hua would not answer what she said was a "hypothetical question" on
whether China would use its veto powers if the report was brought to
the U.N. Security Council for further action. Diplomats have said
China will most likely block any such proceedings.
Asked why China blocked U.N. investigators from going to the North
Korean border, across which many North Koreans cross illegally, Hua
said she could not comment and would have to look into the matter.
"These people are not refugees. We term them illegal North Korean
migrants," she added.
China deals with these people appropriately "in accordance with
international and domestic laws and the humanitarian principles",
Hua said, declining to provide an estimate for how many of these
people have cross into China.
The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United
Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court to
make sure any culprits "including possibly yourself" were held
In a statement in Geneva, North Korea "categorically and totally"
rejected the accusations set out in the 372-page report, saying they
were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United
States, the European Union and Japan.
[to top of second column]
RIGHT TO RULE
"The world is finally waking up to the fact that North Korea is a
far-right state, in that the regime derives its right to rule from a
commitment to military might and racial purity," said Brian Myers, a
South Korea-based North Korea expert.
"But for that very reason, the regime has never felt very
embarrassed by criticism of its human rights record, and has
reported sneeringly on that criticism to its own people. Perhaps it
will realize that it cannot keep attracting investors and
collaborators without making more of a pretence to progressive or
The findings came out of a year-long 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".
The investigators said 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.
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 it had compiled a database of suspects
from evidence and testimony.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; additional reporting by James Pearson
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