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Posts tagged ‘Michael Kirby’

North Korea’s Kim Warned he Might Face Charges over Atrocities.

North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and mass killings bordering on genocide, U.N. investigators said on Monday.

The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.

North Korea said it “categorically and totally” rejected the investigators’ report, which it called “a product of politicization of human rights on the part of EU and Japan in alliance with the U.S. hostile policy”.

The unprecedented public warning and rebuke to a ruling head of state by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry is likely to complicate efforts to persuade the isolated country to rein in its nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.

The U.N. investigators said they had also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea, where they faced torture and execution – a charge that Chinese officials had rebutted.

As referral to the ICC is seen as a dim hope, given China’s likely veto of any such move by Western powers in the U.N. Security Council, thoughts are also turning to setting up some form of special tribunal on North Korea, diplomatic and U.N. sources told Reuters.

“We’ve collected all the testimony and can’t just stop and wait 10 years. The idea is to sustain work,” said one.



Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters the crimes the team had catalogued in a 372-page report were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.

“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.

“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.

The independent investigators’ report, the size of a telephone directory, listing atrocities including murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement, starvation and executions.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.

The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14”.

North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings shortly before they were made public. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said a statement sent to Reuters.



The abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim – state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers’ Party of Korea, according to the investigators, led by Kirby, a retired Australian chief justice.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby wrote in the three-page letter to Kim published as part of the report.

The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not reveal any names, but said that it had compiled a database of suspects from evidence and testimony.

Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.

Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent. Christians were persecuted and women faced blatant discrimination. People were sent to prison camps without hope of release.

The investigators were not able to confirm allegations of “gruesome medical testing of biological and chemical weapons” on disabled people and political prisoners, but said they wanted to investigate further.

North Korea’s extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, the report said, although the legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.

North Korean migrants and defectors returned by China regularly faced torture, detention, summary execution and forced abortion, said the report.

Kirby warned China’s charge d’affaires in Geneva Wu Haitao in a Dec 16 letter that the forced repatriations might amount to “the aiding and abetting (of) crimes against humanity”, it said.

Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said that the fact that some of the illegal North Korean migrants regularly managed to get back into China after their return showed that the allegations of torture were not true.

“The DPRK (North Korea) has been looked at by the Security Council solely as a nuclear proliferation issue,” Julie de Rivero of campaign group Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

“This (report) is putting human rights in the DPRK on the map, which it wasn’t before, and hopefully will put the spotlight on the U.N. and international community to respond to not just the security threat,” she added.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

UN Team Won’t be Deterred If NKorea Rebuffs Inquiry into Abuses.

SYDNEY — U.N. investigators will seek the cooperation of North Korea as part of an inquiry into allegations of widespread human rights abuses in the country but won’t be deterred if Pyongyang refuses, the head of the investigating panel said on Thursday.

Michael Kirby, an outspoken former justice of Australia’s top court, was named this week as head of a three-member team that will look into allegations of torture, food deprivation, and labor camps that are believed to hold at least 200,000 people.

The U.N. Human Rights Council launched the one-year inquiry on March 21, hoping to gather enough information from camp survivors and other exiles to document violations that it says may amount to crimes against humanity.

Kirby said in an interview he had received hundreds of emails from human rights groups and representatives of those alleging abuse by North Korea in the day since his appointment.

Contacting North Korean authorities would be “top of the list” of priorities, he said, adding he was hopeful of a response from the government and its strongest supporters in neighbouring China and Russia but that a lack of engagement would not stop the panel from completing its task.

“If they come forward — good. If they don’t come forward, well, we will just get on with our job and do it within the materials and access we have. That’s just common sense,” said Kirby, who has previously investigated human rights abuses in Cambodia.

North Korea denies the existence of labor camps and activists do not expect it to cooperate with the investigation, having denounced it during a U.N. Human Rights Council debate.

The U.N. team would speak to North Koreans living in South Korea, Japan, and Thailand, Kirby said.

“When the commission is up and running after the first of July, 2013 then we will start working through our methodology to consult and see as many as possible,” he said.

Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, called in January for an international investigation into what she said may be crimes against humanity, including torture and executions of political prisoners in North Korean camps.

The council unanimously passed a resolution brought by the European Union and Japan, and backed by the United States, which set up the inquiry.

Neither North Korea’s closest ally, China, nor Russia are currently members of the 47-member Geneva-based council, and thus have no vote.

Diplomats have said the inquiry sent a message that the international community was not just paying attention to North Korea’s banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Kirby will be joined on the committee by Sonja Biserko, a founder of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, and Indonesia’s Marzuki Darusman, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur on North Korea.

Kirby said it was too early to discuss possible outcomes of the inquiry, such as whether it could lead to charges in the International Criminal Courts against any individuals.

“In the end, it will be the political branches of the United Nations that will be making the decisions on the report of the commission of inquiry,” he said.

The inquiry is due to file an interim report by September, with a final report due by March next year.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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