U.N. Panel Finds Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea
Feburary 15, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com
Edited by Mr. Sung-min Kim
GENEVA — United Nations investigators say North Korea has committed wide-ranging crimes against humanity to sustain its political system, and recommend that it be referred to the International Criminal Court.
In a report that draws on the testimony of survivors and those who escaped the country, the investigators detail how North Koreans have been summarily executed, subjected to rape, forced abortions and enslavement, and have suffered persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, The Associated Press said on Saturday, citing an unofficial outline of the report, to be released Monday.
Crimes against humanity were committed through policies and decisions meant to sustain the current political system, the report concludes, and in full awareness that they would exacerbate starvation and related deaths, the news agency reported. The panel is scheduled to present its report and a 372-page detailed annex to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 17. The report is widely expected to be the most authoritative account yet of the abuses and repression maintained by three generations of the ruling Kim family over 60 years.
The Human Rights Council set up the panel nearly a year ago to try to broaden international attention beyond North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and focus on a system of political repression that the United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, said had “allowed the government to mistreat its citizens to a degree that should be unthinkable in the 21st century.”
There appears to be little prospect of North Korea’s coming under investigation by the International Criminal Court, an initiative that requires the support of the United Nations Security Council, where China, North Korea’s traditional ally, would almost certainly block action.
Members of the panel are under no illusion about the political obstacles to bringing the North’s leaders to account for the crimes they report, but have expressed the hope that greater international scrutiny will have a deterrent effect on state abuse, afford some protection to North Korea’s population and help serve as a catalyst for change.
David Hawk, a leading researcher on North Korean prison camps, told The A.P. that although legal scholars and human rights groups had previously concluded that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity, this was the first time that United Nations experts had drawn the same conclusion.
The panel draws on the testimony of survivors, expert witnesses and satellite imagery to describe the conditions in a network of prison camps still believed to hold up to 120,000 prisoners, where inmates, some of them sentenced for “crimes by association,” were subjected to forced labor and deliberate starvation, and witnessed frequent public executions.
Barred from access to North Korea, the panel held public hearings in Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea, to help raise awareness of conditions in the country. These produced harrowing accounts of starving children clubbed to death by prison guards for stealing a few grains of rice and a mother who was forced to drown her baby in a bucket.
“We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief,” the leader of the panel, Michael D. Kirby, told the Human Rights Council in September.
∙ testimony [ ˌ tɛstə ˌ moʊni] : [NOUN] proof or evidence that something exists or is true
∙ exacerbate [ ɪg ˈ zæsɚ ˌ beɪt ] : [VERB] to make (a bad situation, a problem, etc.) worse
∙ authoritative [ə ˈθ orə ˌ teɪtɪv] : [ADJECTIVE] thaving or showing impressive knowledge about a subject ∙
∙ catalyst [ kætələst ] : [NOUN] a person or event that quickly causes change or action
1. What is the main idea of the article?
2. Many things in prison have changed to protect human rights. For example, striped prisoner’s uniform is no longer used. Do you think human rights is protected enough? Why do you think like that?
3. Still many North Koreans try to escape their country. Have you ever heard about other problems of North Korea? What is it ? and why can it be a problem? Share your opinion to others.
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