North Korea’s government committed “unspeakable atrocities” against humanity in order to maintain its totalitarian system, according to a United Nations report released today. The UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights, established by the Human Rights Council in March 2013, spent the last year gathering evidence and documenting the experiences of individual North Koreans who were violated by the regime.
“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,” according to a UN press release announcing the commission’s findings.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has for decades prioritized military spending and nuclear research over the well being of it citizens. Combined with “inefficient economic production and discriminatory resource allocation,” widespread famine is commonplace. Starvation is exacerbated by the systematic denial of food to those who are not “deemed useful to the survival of the current political system.” Broad human rights abuses cited by the UN commission in their report include denial of the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, information, movement and association.
Although the UN commission originally approached North Korea directly with requests for information and access, the researchers were forced to obtain first-hand testimony from refugees in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington D.C. when the government declined to comment. “We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief,” the leader of the panel, Michael D. Kirby, told the Human Rights Council in September, according to the New York Times.
The United Nations recommends that North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court for further investigation. It is likely, however, that China would veto such a proposal were it presented to the UN Security Council for approval.
Perhaps in understanding of the difficulties involved in influencing the ruling Kim family’s six decade hold on North Korea’s government, the UN commission “urged all States to respect the principle of non-refoulement” and allow North Korean refugees to stay.