Prosecute Kim Jong-il through ICC for Crimes Against Humanity

According to recent media reports, Kim Jong-il, now suffering health difficulties, has selected his third son, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him. The North Korean regime is reportedly accelerating plans to become an important military power by 2012.  This may explain why the regime has conducted repeated missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN resolutions on sanctions, despite escalating tensions in the world community.

The series of nuclear tests and missile launches by North Korea is likely to provoke strong public outcry demanding deterrence among such neighboring countries as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.  Those measures could jeopardize security in North East Asia, drawing the region into a climate of constant fear.  In other words, the nations neighboring North Korea could be dragged inexorably into an endless cycle of military expansion out of fear of a North Korean “explosion.”

If that happens, the importance of achieving better lives, greater democracy, and a respect for human rights would be overridden by a public demand for nuclear deterrence.  This could lead automatically to an unspoken consensus among citizens that human rights violations or the lack of humanity are an acceptable price to pay for “risk management.”

We cannot continue to sit and do nothing about this rogue state.  The world community has been trying to persuade North Korea to follow international rules, but North Korea is the least likely nation to compromise unless offered something they want.

I believe that a more effective approach to this issue would be from the viewpoint of human rights.  More specifically, to file criminal charges of violation of human rights and humanity committed under the Kim Jong-il military dictatorship.

The abduction of people from other countries is a glaring example of human rights violations.  Kim Jong-il himself has admitted the abductions.  Reports of other human rights violations have been supplied by North Koreans who managed to escape from gulags, or so-called “death camps.” in North Korea.  Many North Korean women have also testified that they were repatriated and subjected to forced abortion in North Korea because they had conceived “foreign seed” in China.

The UN Economic and Social Council has already issued three resolutions denouncing North Korea for its human rights violations.  This year the Council will probably issue its fourth resolution of denunciation.

The Japanese government and the South Korean government should publicly accuse Kim Jong-il of his crimes.  He is the leader of a nation that continues to harm the human rights of people in other countries as well in as his own country, with utter disregard for international rules.

Based on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) established in 1998, the permanent international criminal court was founded in The Hague, Netherlands in 2002.  The ICC is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity,war crimes, and the crime of aggression, which are major concerns of the entire world community.  We must bring Kim Jong-il to the ICC and prosecute him.

The ICC applies the “subsidiary principle” in its prosecutions.  The ICC can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a citizen of a country that has joined the organization, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a member country, or a situation is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. The court is intended to complement existing national judicial systems. It can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.

As of June 2009, 108 states are members of the Court.  Japan became a member of the ICC in July 2007.

If Kim Jong-il were prosecuted, he could be arrested only if he visits a neighboring nation that is a signatory member; however, the court proceeding can be carried out at a judge’s discretion even if Kim Jong-il remains in his own country.

Regrettably, since China and the USA are not yet members of the ICC, Kim Jong-il will not be placed under the custody of the ICC (unlike Milosevic in former Yugoslavia), but the impact of the prosecution, if it were carried out, would be immeasurable.

I do want to believe, however, in the possibility that international pressure can motivate North Korea to select a path leading to democracy.

Special Report by Kato Hiroshi