The Yomiuri Shimbun February 19, 2014
U.N. inquiry finds systematic state-sponsored crimes by N. Korea
国連人権委報告 認定された北朝鮮「国家犯罪」(2月19日付・読売社説)

The United Nations has issued a stern accusation of state crimes committed by North Korea, including abductions of Japanese nationals. The organization’s condemnation is likely to stoke strong international pressure on North Korea, and it will be important to use this international pressure as leverage to bring a resolution to the abduction issue.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has issued its report on the state of human rights in North Korea.

The report acknowledges “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and concludes that these behaviors are “based on state policies.” The report finds that the violations constitute “crimes against humanity,” and the investigation panel recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer the domestic situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court for action.

The investigation panel was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March last year, the product of a unanimous vote. The panel’s denunciation of state-sponsored crimes by North Korea is of great significance. The international community should not stand as an impassive observer, watching historic and ongoing human rights violations in North Korea.

The report is based on a massive quantity of testimonies made by many protected victims, witnesses and government officials in various countries. The document provided the entire picture of human rights violations in the country in a comprehensive manner.

It details the chilling reality of human rights violations including prison camps, arbitrary detention, torture, public executions, starvation as a policy implement, suppression of freedom and discrimination. The report points out, quite persuasively: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

In particular, the report states unambiguously that abductions of foreign nationals including Japanese “were approved at the level of the Supreme Leader” under the three-generation dynastic regime of “Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un.” Michael Kirby, the inquiry panel’s chair, spoke of the possibility of examining the responsibility of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea’s ruling party.

Seeking end to abduction issue

North Korea provided no cooperation at all to the inquiry panel. It reacted strongly against the report, saying that the country “categorically and totally rejects the report.” However, North Korea cannot expect improved relations with the international community, indispensable to the rebuilding of its economy, unless it reverses the current woeful state of human rights in the country.

North Korea must, for example, take very seriously the report’s recommendations calling for the disclosure of complete information on abduction victims and the immediate return of surviving abductees to their home countries.

The report demonstrated that the abduction issue is a problem not only for Japan, but also a matter of grave concern for the international community as a whole. The panel’s findings can also be seen as one fruit of the diplomatic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who proactively engaged in the establishment of the inquiry panel.

We hope the government will seize the opportunity presented by heightened international concern over North Korea’s human rights situation. It must urge North Korea to resume bilateral talks and do its best to realize the immediate return of all abduction victims, the hand-over of the perpetrators of the abductions and the uncovering of the full truth behind the abductions.

There is no end of defectors from North Korea who have been forcibly returned to the country after entering China, and there have been cases in which defectors living in China were abducted by North Korean agents as well.

As a major power with influence over North Korea, China has a responsibility of its own to cooperate with the international community to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, including helping to resolve the abduction issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2014)
(2014年2月19日01時39分  読売新聞)