Time for criminal charges against North Korea leadership: UN

World Friday 22/January/2016 15:38 PM
By: Times News Service
Time for criminal charges against North Korea leadership: UN

Geneva: The world must back a criminal prosecution of North Korea's leaders as there has been no improvement in human rights there in the two years since a UN report detailed Nazi-style atrocities, a United Nations investigator said on Friday.
"In addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership," said Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.
The 2014 UN report on North Korea's human rights concluded that security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim Jong Un should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings.
The report prompted the UN General Assembly to urge the UN Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Only the 15-member Security Council can refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC, but diplomats say China, North Korea's main benefactor, would likely veto such a move.
In February last year, North Korea's ambassador to the UN said his country was not concerned about the threat because it was not guilty of any crime. Darusman, a co-author of the 2014 report, was speaking at the end of a trip to Tokyo, having been repeatedly refused access to North Korea. During his five days in Japan, he met family members of people allegedly abducted by North Korea.
Earlier, it was reported that North Korea had detained a US university student, the third western citizen known to be held in the isolated state, for committing a "hostile act" and wanting to "destroy the country's unity", it said on Friday.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, 21, of the University of Virginia, was in North Korea for a five-day New Year trip and was detained at Pyongyang airport on January 2 ahead of a flight back to China, said Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours, which organised the visit.
According to the North's official KCNA news agency, Warmbier entered North Korea as a tourist and "was caught committing a hostile act against the state", which it said was "tolerated and manipulated by the US government".
An official at the US embassy in the South Korean capital Seoul said it was aware of the reported arrest.
The US State Department in Washington had no immediate comment.
Johnson said China-based Young Pioneer Tours was in contact with Warmbier's family and US officials.
"We are in touch with Otto's family, the US.State Department and the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang and doing all we can to secure his release," Johnson told Reuters.
The Swedish Embassy represents US interests in North Korea.
KCNA said Warmbier had entered the country with an "aim to destroy the country's unity". It did not elaborate.
According to his social media profiles, Warmbier is from Cincinnati and is an Echols Scholar, awarded to the top seven percent of incoming first year students at the University of Virginia, where he majors in economics with a minor in global sustainability. Warmbier has also visited Cuba, Ireland and Israel, according to his Facebook profile.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Park Geun-hye called on Friday for a meeting of five countries, excluding North Korea, to discuss the North's nuclear programme alongside long-stalled "six-party talks" that include Pyongyang. Park's comments came amid a flurry of diplomatic exchanges involving Washington and Beijing as the international community seeks to impose fresh sanctions on North Korea for its fourth nuclear test on January 6. "In the past, six-party talks had usefulness as a framework to resolve North Korean nuclear issues via dialogue," Park said in remarks at the presidential Blue House. "But even if the talks open but don't help de-nuclearise North Korea, the question of being effective will be brought up," she said. China, Pyongyang's main ally, has been calling for a resumption of so-called six-party talks among the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said talks were still the best way to resolve the problem and that the six-party talks process should resume as soon as possible. Numerous efforts to restart the six-party talks have failed since negotiations collapsed following the last round in 2008. "Relevant parties, although it is not an easy matter, should find out various and creative approaches such as trying five-party talks excluding North Korea," Park said. Park also said China's role was essential in adopting strong sanctions at the United Nations Security Council, repeating her calls for Beijing to act. "I expect China to take an effective measure that can make North Korea realise development of nuclear weapons is futile and come into the international community like Iran," she said.