The crimes of North Korea’s regime are as chilling as those of the Nazis, South Africa’s apartheid regime or Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge and must be stopped, the head of a UN inquiry says.
“Contending with the great scourges of Nazism, apartheid, the Khmer Rouge and other affronts required courage by great nations and ordinary human beings alike,” former Australian High Court justice Michael Kirby told the UN Human Rights Council.
“It is now your solemn duty to address the scourge of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said.
His comments came a month after the investigators released a searing 400-page report documenting a range of gross human rights abuses in the country, including the extermination of people, enslavement and sexual violence.
“The gravity, scale, duration and nature of the unspeakable atrocities committed in the country reveal a totalitarian state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” Kirby said.
“The country is a dark abyss where the human rights, the dignity and the humanity of the people are controlled, denied and ultimately annihilated.”
North Korea, which refused to co-operate with the commission, has “categorically” rejected its report.
The country’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, So Se Pyon, said on Monday the findings were “shameless fabrications” by “hostile forces”.
But Kirby said “the world has ignored the evidence for too long,” adding: “There is no excuse, because now we know.”
The commission, which was created in March 2013 by the Human Rights Council, was denied access to North Korea and relied for its findings on hearings in South Korea and Japan with 320 North Korean exiles.
The report included shocking testimony from North Koreans who escaped, highlighting “the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation”.
In their hard-hitting report, the commissioners insisted North Korea’s leaders should be brought before an international court for a litany of crimes against humanity.
“Members of the United Nations: the commission of inquiry challenges you to address, with no further delay, the suffering of millions of North Koreans,” Kirby told the Human Rights Council on Monday.
“If this report does not give rise to action, it is difficult to imagine what will,” he said.
Many country representatives supported the call to refer the human rights abuses in North Korea to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The European Union, which along with Japan is drafting a resolution to be voted on by the council next week, highlighted “the important role of the International Criminal Court in tackling impunity for crimes against humanity”.
“The EU believes that it is imperative that there be no impunity for those responsible for human rights violations,” EU representative to the UN in Geneva, Mariangela Zappia, told the council Monday.