UN panel asks security council to refer North Korea to criminal court
The UN general assembly’s Human Rights Committee has approved a draft resolution calling for a referral of the North Korean regime and its leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution over crimes against humanity.
The resolution followed a report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights, indicating widespread violations and a large scale pattern of abuse under the leadership of Kim Jong-un.
Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, the head of the inquiry Michael Kirby reported: “What we have seen and heard so far – the specificity, detail and shocking character of the personal testimony – appears without doubt to demand follow-up action by the world community, and accountability on the part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
The inquiry’s final report and recommendations are due in March. However, initial findings from interviews with individuals who have fled the country have indicated violations ranging from torture, prison camp detentions, rape, abductions and starvation.
Tuesday’s non-binding resolution was passed with 111 countries in favour, 19 oppositions and 55 abstentions, calling for targeted sanctions against those responsible.
UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea Marzuki Darusman commented: “The goal of the UN should be to hold accountable those North Korean leaders who are most responsible and that would include Kim Jong-un.”
Choe Myong-nam, a foreign ministry adviser on UN’s and human rights issues, strongly condemned the vote and issued a stark warning that an attempt to punish the regime and Kim Jong-un “is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests”.
The vote will put pressure on North Korea over its much scrutinised human rights record. However, it will remain largely symbolic and is unlikely to lead to definitive action from the ICC. Experts think any referral to the court would be vetoed by North Korean ally China, and certainly backed by Russia.