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UN: North Korea rights violations constitute crimes against humanity

UN human rights investigators on Monday released a 372-page report [text, DOC] detailing widespread crimes against humanity in North Korea that they believe should be brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The report, which is to be debated [Reuters report] by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in Geneva on March 17, includes excerpts of witness testimony [press release] taken from the statements of more than 80 victims and witnesses in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the US. The abuses described in the report [press release] include murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, the enforced disappearance of people and knowingly causing starvation. It goes on to say that "the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." Commissioners summarized their findings in a letter to the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, and stated that they would recommend referral of the situation to the ICC. North Korea has rejected the report [Reuters report], claiming that it was based on faked materials and was an instrument of a political plot meant to sabotage their system and defame the country.

The UN has sought to investigate and counter human rights abuses occurring in North Korea in the past. In September the UNHRC commission responsible for investigating potential human rights violations in North Korea reported widespread human rights abuses [JURIST report] occurring in the country. Last February Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and a group of independent human rights experts announced their support for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into human rights violations in North Korea to bring awareness to the country's system of political prison camps. Also last February Darusman urged the UNHRC and the General Assembly to investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] in North Korea. Last November he also expressed concern [JURIST report] over the country's lack of development in human rights, and called on its new leader, Kim Jong-un, to remedy the matter. Last January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report] and urged the international community to make efforts to improve the situation. Pillay's plea came only days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the UN [JURIST report] to examine human rights abuses, particularly in light of the decrease in the number of individuals escaping into China and reports by successful escapees of increasing crackdowns on escape attempts.

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