International Justice

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The ICC in North Korea

Refer N Korea to the Int’l Criminal court: UNHRC

A UN commission of inquiry into human rights abuses has just released a report detailing the horrific atrocities committed in North Korea. The report, which will be officially presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March, documents crimes ranging from murder, torture, and enslavement to rape, forced abortions, and starvation. The report also implicates China as possibly complicit in these crimes, due to its support for the regime and its policy of returning North Korean refugees and escaped prisoners back to the regime. The report calls for international action, and asks that the UN Security Council refer the case to the ICC.

Though China’s veto power on the Security Council makes it appear unlikely that such a referral would occur, there are reasons to hope. China has rarely vetoed a resolution on its own, and would likely want Russia’s backing if it were to do so here. In 2012, China did not veto a UN resolution condemning human rights violations in North Korea. While China would not want to be implicated in the case, it would likely appreciate the opportunity for leverage over a North Korean leader who recently purged his uncle, an important interlocutor with China.  An ICC trial for Kim Jung Un is far from likely, but this report certainly places his ally China in an interesting position.

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One response to “The ICC in North Korea

  1. gracen0te5 March 3, 2014 at 12:14 am

    This is big news, however, it is a bit strange for me to read, because I feel like this story should have come out a long time ago. I am not exactly sure when the investigations towards North Korea’s human rights violations have started, but the delay of the North Korea report shows that the international community has not paid much attention to human rights violations ongoing in North Korea. This may be because a long time ago, the timing was not right. It was not the right political atmosphere. Perhaps this is coming out because of the limitations that Western countries have with this issue, especially in regards to China’s allegiance with North Korea preventing U.S. presence in the area. Is this considered aiding and abetting crimes against humanity?

    Eastern and Western-based newspapers and media coverage also seem very different in bringing awareness to human rights violations. Western newspapers seem to have a more Africa/Middle East focus, while in Korean newspapers, for example, there seems to be an especially noticeable trend in news coverage involving the U.S. (Obama news), China, Japan, and North Korea.

    The North Korea issue not only shows that human rights are too often used by governments as a political tool. It also shows that human rights are used by media as a political tool. When reading Korean sources on North Korea, its tone depends heavily on whether it is from the conservative or leftist side. For both U.S. and South Korea, North Korea is a constant reminder that they did not win the war. North Korea’s longevity is a constant challenge to South Korea’s proclaimed sovereignty on the peninsula. I bring this up because human rights are also used as leverage in foreign diplomacy when dealing with North Korea.

    The current leadership transition and the North Korean government’s precarious grip on the reigns have set the stage for these “official” charges against North Korea. I’m glad that these are finally coming under the international microscope, but I think we must wait and see what this will actually change.

    The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea publishes its findings.
    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/ReportoftheCommissionofInquiryDPRK.aspx

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