A new report from a United Nations panel, due to be released on Monday, found that crimes against humanity have certainly been committed in North Korea and recommends referring the situation for international action.
The report is the result of a year-long effort from a U.N. Commission of Inquiry towards the communist country’s human rights abuses, the first of its kind to take such a deep-dive into the subject. The resulting document provides “evidence of an array of such crimes, including ‘extermination,’ crimes against humanity against starving populations and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan,” the Associated Press reports.
Evidence gathered, the report will conclude, “create[s] reasonable grounds … to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice.” Setting aside the unlikely event that a national court takes up the matter, the most likely venue for such an investigation would be the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague.
As North Korea is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document, the Court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to act on the commission’s report. For that, the Prosecutor has to wait for a referral from the United Nations Security Council. While the Council has become more open towards such referrals than in the past, as in the case of Libya in 2011, the chances of North Korean leaders such as Kim Jong Un appearing at the Hague has one serious obstacle: China. Beijing is not only one of Pyongyang’s closest allies, they hold a veto on the Security Council on all substantive matters — including ICC referrals.
“The odds are close to zero,” David Bosco, an assistant professor at American University and author of a recently published book on the ICC, told ThinkProgress when asked about Beijing possibly allowing for such a referral.
Given Chinese — and likely Russian — disapproval, Bosco “[doesn’t] think there’s any chance” the ICC will be investigating the DPRK. “This is looking like one of those things that goes down the memory hole after a few months, unfortunately,” he concluded.