Crimes against Humanity in North Korea
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On February 7, 2014 the United Nations General Assembly released a report by a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into human rights in North Korea: you can find it here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/ReportoftheCommissionofInquiryDPRK.aspx . The report was commissioned by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. This Council isn’t exactly representative of rights-protecting countries: its 2014 membership includes China, Congo, Ethiopia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. But it seems that the human rights violations in North Korea are so bad that even these countries feel safe commissioning a report on it.
|ICC Logo- Wiki Commons|
Why has it taken so long to get this far? One reason is the diplomatic concern with North Korea’s nuclear program. Since 1993 periodic “Six-Party Talks” among North Korea, South Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan have taken place, with the other five countries trying to persuade North Korea not to develop nuclear weapons. Despite this, it’s conducted three tests of such weapons, in 2006, 2009, and 2013. “Loose nukes trump human rights,” is more or less what international policy has been.
The other reason it’s taken so long to get this far is that China supports North Korea, although it’s been less willing to do so in the recent past and did not veto the latest round of UNSC sanctions against North Korea after its 2013 nuclear test. The Chinese aren’t pleased that these tests have been conducted close to its borders. Also, they seem to have been trying to persuade North Korea to adopt liberalizing economic reforms, such as they themselves started in 1978, but one of the people seemingly most interested in these reforms was Kim Jong-un’s uncle, recently executed.
|North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un- Wiki Commons|
On the other hand though, the Chinese might be pressuring the North Koreans in secret to engage in some reforms. It doesn’t do China’s reputation any good to be known to protect one of the worst countries on the planet. And reforms might mean fewer North Korean refugees in China itself.
One good thing about this report is that it takes the ICC spotlight off Africa. Since it was established in 2002, all the ICC prosecutions have been of Africans. This isn’t because of racist or colonialist bias: in most cases, it’s been because African leaders referred individuals for prosecution. But these same leaders –for example, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni—are becoming worried that they themselves might be referred for prosecution; this is what happened to Kenya’s now President and Vice-President, both of whom are accused of having stirred up murderous ethnic violence during the 2007-8 elections. These Africans are playing the anti-Western card, claiming they are victims of colonialism. But if—and it’s a big if—the UNSC actually does refer North Korea to the ICC, they will be less able to make that claim
For other blogs I’ve written about North Korea, see
http://rhodahassmann.blogspot.ca/2013_10_01_archive.htm (North Korea: Still One of the World’s Most Awful Places to Live (and Die))
http://rhodahassmann.blogspot.ca/2013_03_01_archive.html (Cannibalism in North Korea);
and http://rhodahassmann.blogspot.ca/2012_09_01_archive.html (North Korean Slave Labour).