A U.N. expert on human rights in North Korea said Monday supreme leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, asking a key rights body to authorize three experts to look into the legal aspects of criminal accountability.
Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Marzuki Darusman said international criminal law holds military and civilian leaders responsible for failing to prevent or repress crimes against humanity by those under their authority. He said that offers a “plausible theory” to hold Kim and other leaders “individually culpable.”
“It is now time for the international community to move on with the logical next step — which is pursuing accountability of the regime and those most responsible for violations of human rights in the country,” Darusman told reporters afterward.
“Nothing happens anywhere in that country without the say-so of the highest supreme leader … Mr. Kim Jong Un,” he added.
North Korean diplomats did not attend the speech by Darusman, who is finishing his six-year tenure in the post. Earlier this month, the secretive regime’s foreign minister told the council that his country will “never, ever be bound” by international resolutions that criticize its human rights record.
Darusman cited political prison camps, reports of torture and abductions by state operatives, religious persecution and “slave-like organizing of the labour force” in North Korea. In 2014, Darusman was on a U.N. commission of inquiry on North Korea that published a groundbreaking report laying out widespread abuses like a system of political prison camps holding up to 120,000 people.
On hand at the U.N.’s Geneva office on Monday, Ahn Myeong Cheol, a former North Korean prison guard turned outspoken defector, welcomed Darusman’s presentation and said he hoped it would pave the way for Kim to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Thanks to activists in South Korea who can filter the news of Darusman’s report into the reclusive northern neighbour, Ahn said, “the North Korean people inside will know more about their own situation, that their leader is not good anymore, that he is a liar to his people.”