NKorea commits crimes against humanity, UN panel finds

WASHINGTON — A U.N. Commission of Inquiry has found that crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea and recommends that its findings be referred to the International Criminal Court, two people familiar with the commission’s report have told The Associated Press.

The commission, which conducted a yearlong investigation, has found evidence of an array of such crimes, including “extermination,” crimes against humanity against starving populations and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan.

Its report, due for release Monday, does not examine in detail individual responsibility for the alleged crimes but recommends steps toward accountability.

An outline of the conclusions were provided to AP by an individual familiar with its contents who was not authorized to divulge the information before its formal release and spoke on condition of anonymity. A U.S. official, speaking anonymously for the same reason, confirmed those conclusions.

The three-member commission, led by a retired Australian judge, was set up by the U.N.’s top human rights body last March in the most serious international attempt yet to probe evidence of systematic and grave rights violations in the reclusive, authoritarian state, which is notorious for its political prisons camps, repression and famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 1990s.

The lengthy report concludes that the testimony and other information it received, “create reasonable grounds … to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice.”

The commission, which conducted public hearings with more than 80 victims and other witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington but was not allowed into North Korea itself, recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer its findings to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

That appears unlikely to happen, given likely opposition among permanent council members that have veto power, such as China, to prevent such a step.

But the commission also recommends that the U.N. General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should extend the mandate of special human rights monitoring of North Korea, and proposes the Geneva-based council establish a “structure” to help ensure accountability, in particular on crimes against humanity, that would build on evidence and documentation the commission has compiled.

It says the work of that structure should “facilitate United Nations efforts to prosecute or otherwise render accountable, those most responsible for crimes against humanity.”

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