[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] confirmed on Monday that the prosecutor’s office has opened preliminary examinations to evaluate possible war crimes committed by North Korea [press release]. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] verified that evaluations will determine if some of the incidents by North Korean forces in South Korea constitute war crimes, giving the ICC jurisdiction over the matter. According to the ICC’s press release, the incidents under ICC evaluation include:
the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on the 23 November 2010 which resulted in the killing of South Korean marines and civilians and the injury of many others; and the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, hit by a torpedo allegedly fired from a North Korean submarine on 26 March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 persons.
The Rome Statute [text] mandates the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor to conduct preliminary examinations in order to determine if opening an investigation would meet the Rome Statute’s criteria.
Last week, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong, which killed four, including two civilians, a crime against humanity [JURIST report]. North Korea’s ongoing conflict with the South is not the only human rights issue for which the country has faced criticism. Last month, a UN committee condemned [JURIST report] what it called persistent, “grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights” of its own people. In March, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] adopted a resolution [A/HRC/13/L.13 materials] condemning [JURIST report] North Korea for grave human rights abuses. Earlier in March, UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn [UN press release] reported [text, PDF] to the UNHRC that North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. This report came after Muntarbhorn’s previous criticism, in October, 2009, of North Korea’s “abysmal” [JURIST report] and ongoing human rights violations, alleging that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women’s rights violations and widespread hunger.