Share story

BEIJING — Torture, deliberate starvation and other abuses carried out by North Korean authorities — possibly on the orders of supreme leader Kim Jong Un himself — constitute crimes against humanity and should be referred to an international court or tribunal for prosecution, United Nations investigators said Monday.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” said a 400-page report unveiled in Geneva by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea.

It added that the “gravity, scale and nature of the violations” in the totalitarian state over several decades do not have “any parallel in the contemporary world.”

The report estimated that 80,000 to 120,000 people remain in four large political prison camps in North Korea and noted that in late 2013 there “appeared to be a spike in the number of politically motivated public executions.”

This week, save 90% on digital access.

As part of the report, the panel published a three-page letter that it sent to Kim, alleging that the abuses were perpetrated by state security officials, the army, the judiciary, the Ministry of Security and the Workers’ Party.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby said.

The letter to Kim also drew attention to the principles of international-criminal law, under which military commanders and civilian superiors can be held responsible for failing to prevent and stop crimes against humanity committed by people under their effective control.

The comprehensive nature of the report by a U.N.-appointed panel was unprecedented. The document called for urgent action by the international community, including referral to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Alternatively, it noted that the U.N. Security Council has the power to set up a special tribunal for North Korea.

However, many observers believe any attempt to take such action would be blocked by China, North Korea’s neighbor and closest ally and a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council. The report chastised China for forcibly repatriating some North Korean refugees and for denying some 20,000 children born to North Korean women in China the ability to register for health and educational services.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is to consider the panel’s recommendations at a meeting next month.

Lawmaker gets 12 years in prison

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court sentenced an opposition lawmaker to 12 years in prison on Monday for organizing a “revolutionary organization” and conspiring to start an armed revolt to overthrow the Seoul government in the event of war with North Korea.

Lee Seok-Ki, a politician affiliated with the far-left United Progressive Party, became the first South Korean lawmaker convicted on charges of “plotting treason” since the country’s past military dictators used them to silence dissidents decades ago.

The arrest of Lee, 51, in September and his subsequent court hearings drew intense public attention in South Korea, where an ideological conflict rooted in fear of the Communist North shows no sign of easing more than 60 years after the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Lee has denied the charges against him, and his lawyers said Monday that they would appeal.

Lee was accused of bringing together 130 followers in May to plot an armed uprising in support of North Korea if war broke out on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.