[JURIST] The North Korean government is "actively committing crimes against humanity" by the starvation and political repression of North Korean citizens, according to a report [PDF text] released Sunday by a blue-ribbon panel comprised of Vaclav Havel [official website], former President of the Czech Republic; former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik [UN backgrounder]; and Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel [profile]. The report accuses North Korean officials of complicity in crimes against humanity and points to the starvation deaths of 1 million North Korean citizens and the chronic malnourishment of 37 percent of children. The report also notes that 200,000 political prisoners are currently imprisoned under "brutal" conditions and without access to a legal system. The recent UN Security Council resolution to sanction North Korea [JURIST report] may cause further human rights damage, according to the report, and instead the Council should consider intervening on independent grounds. The report's authors urged the Security Council to take action under the doctrine recently adopted by the Council that each state has a "responsibility to protect" its citizens from the most "egregious" human rights violations.
The report was prepared [press release] by the international law firm DLA Piper along with the US Committee for Human Rights in China [advocacy website] and was commissioned by Havel, Bondevik and Wiesel. In an op-ed [text] in Monday's New York Times, the three wrote:
While the focus in recent weeks has been on North Korea's nuclear test, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the government there is also responsible for one of the most egregious human-rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today.AP has more.
For more than a decade, many in the international community have argued that to focus on the suffering of the North Korean people would risk driving the country away from discussions over its nuclear program.
But with his recent actions, North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, has shown that this approach neither stopped the development of his nuclear program nor helped North Koreans. It is time, therefore, for a renewed international effort to ameliorate the crisis facing the country's citizens.