UN warns Kim Jong Un about human rights crimes

A U.N. panel warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians in the secretive Asian nation, ranging from executing and torturing prisoners to systematic abductions and starving mass populations.

It is unusual for a U.N. report to directly implicate a nation’s leader. But in a letter accompanying a yearlong investigative report, the chairman of a three-member U.N. commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, directly warned Kim that that international prosecution is needed “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity.”

“Even without being directly involved in crimes against humanity, a military commander may be held responsible for crimes against humanity committed by forces under the commander’s effective command and control,” Kirby wrote.

The investigative commission’s 372-page report is a wide-ranging indictment of North Korea for policies including political prison camps, state-sponsored abductions of North Korean, Japanese and other nationals, and lifelong indoctrination.

Kirby also wrote to China’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva saying there’s evidence that Chinese officials have in some cases shared with North Korean officials “information about the contacts and conduct” of North Korean nationals subject to repatriation. The ambassador, Wu Haitao, replied to the panel and denied that repatriated North Korean citizens from China face torture in North Korea. He added that China “will continue to prudently and properly handle” North Korean citizens who enter China illegally.

[AP]

North Korean Prison Camp Report by Freedom House

A report by Freedom House concludes that the North Korean prison camps breach almost every definition of crimes against humanity under modern international law.

“The phenomena of repression associated with the political prison camp system of (North Korea) are clear and massive crimes against humanity as now defined in law,” said the report, written by David Hawk.

Among other abuses, it said, camp officials and guards are regularly able to have sexual relations with female prisoners under circumstances judged to constitute rape or sexual violence.

Prisoners “are subjected, usually for a lifetime, to forced labor under extremely severe circumstances, beginning with the provision of below-subsistence level food rations.”

Inmates were regularly subjected to beatings and sometimes more systematic torture for breaking minor regulations.

The high rates of deaths in detention from malnutrition, starvation, exhaustion from forced labor and disease “would likely be deemed by legal scholars and judges to constitute the crime of humanity of extermination, the report said.