UN panel set to reveal results of its investigation

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UN panel set to reveal results of its investigation

A United Nations panel on North Korean human rights is set to announce today the results of a one-year investigation, which will reveal that leaders in Pyongyang have committed a wide range of crimes against humanity.

Additionally, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in North Korea, which was launched last March, will recommend that North Korea’s crimes will be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The report also touches upon the widespread extermination of political dissidents, calling it “political genocide,” and emphasizes the urgency and gravity of addressing the issue.

The final version of the report, as confirmed by the JoongAng Ilbo, further states that the legal responsibility for such crimes against humanity in the regime lies with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as well as his father, Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. It includes a list of other perpetrators as well.

These findings are significant because they are the results of the most serious international attempt yet to investigate the systematic and grave human rights violations in North Korea and may enable further criminal prosecution to be sought.

The COI said that it conducted public hearings with more than 80 victims and other witnesses in its yearlong investigation in hearings of other witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington. The 372-page document contains excerpts of witness testimony and other individual cases.

North Korean authorities are aware of the results of the report, an official here said.

Last month, the COI sent a letter to Pyongyang on the methods of the investigation, the results and its recommendations, but has not yet received a response.

The COI report also analyzed how the North’s Workers’ Party and various government agencies played a role in violating human rights, and in the abuses and oppression of the North Korean people.

The panel’s findings, drawn from the testimony of defectors, investigates various crimes against humanity committed by authorities in North Korea, including rape, executions, forced abortions, enslavement and persecution based on political or religious beliefs.

The commission, led by a retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, was established by the 47-nation United Nations Human Rights Council in March.

The violations investigated are linked to starvation, prison camps, torture and inhumane treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement and enforced disappearances, including kidnappings of foreign citizens, said the commission.

The commission, however, was not able to conduct a probe in North Korea, as Pyongyang did not agree to cooperate with the investigation. The North denounced the commission when it was formed, calling its probe a “slander” against the state.

The panel visited Seoul last August for a 10-day investigation, speaking with dozens of defectors and witnesses. During an interim report, the investigators said the testimonies they heard evoked the same kind of reaction as those from survivors of the concentration camps after World War II.

Kirby, who said that such testimonies moved him to tears, told the UN General Assembly last October that through its final report, “the international community will be obliged to face its responsibilities” to decide the concrete actions it will take to help the North Korean people.

Two members of the three-member commission, Kirby and Marzuki Darusman, the Indonesian UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea since 2010, are slated to hold a press conference on the report today in Geneva. The commission will then present its findings to the Human Rights Council on March 17 there.

The findings of the COI investigation are also significant because they are expected to be used as an authoritative account referenced in future policies regarding North Korean human rights. They may also serve as a road map for the international community in prosecuting the perpetrators.

The commission will recommend that the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council establish a “structure” to help ensure accountability in North Korea, especially in regard to crimes against humanity. This would further build on its final report. This will then enable UN efforts to prosecute or render accountable those most responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea, the report indicates.

BY SARAH KIM, YOO JI-HYE [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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