The United Nations Human Rights Council decided on Wednesday to appoint a panel of experts to explore legal avenues for prosecuting North Korean leaders for crimes against humanity, The New York Times reports:
The council, based in Geneva, passed a resolution calling for the appointment of independent experts to identify and recommend “practical mechanisms of accountability” for abuses detailed in a landmark 2014 report of a commission of inquiry. The council adopted the resolution without a vote despite criticism from six countries, including China and Russia.
The commission of inquiry recommended that the United Nations Security Council refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court to answer for widespread crimes against humanity, including extrajudicial killings, the enslavement of tens of thousands of detainees in a network of prison camps, torture, rape, and religious and political persecution.
The Panel of Experts will “prepare for domestic initiatives on possible transitional justice in North Korea in the future and South Korea’s responsibility in that process,” said the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights,” adding that the panel “is also expected to strengthen the international advocacy in search of justice, truth, and compensation to North Korean victims.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the latest development.
“The government deplores the North’s pouring of its scarce resources into its nuclear tests and missile launches, while it turns a blind eye to the human rights of North Koreans and their livelihoods,” the
Supporters of the resolution recognized the difficulty of obtaining a referral to the criminal court from the Security Council, where China, North Korea’s traditional ally, wields a veto. The resolution is intended to keep up the pressure on North Korea’s leadership by identifying alternative approaches for bringing to justice those responsible for abuses, The Times adds.
“We gave them a good chance to demonstrate good will in the last two years,” said Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations investigator monitoring human rights developments in North Korea. “Now is the time to close in on them.”