Alarm bells have gone off in Beijing, in Moscow, and even among some so-called “realists” in the West. They caution that the pending U.N. General Assembly consideration of an EU-Japan joint resolution on North Korean human rights violations, scheduled for December 18-19, could push Pyongyang over the edge. Publicly censuring North Korea for its crimes against humanity, they warn, might lead to a fourth nuclear test and even potentially trigger another military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. These voices, as a result, advocate continued silence despite overwhelming evidence of massive human rights violations, about which the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) report wrote the following: “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the modern world.”
Discussion will also likely take place in the Security Council in the near future. In response to the COI report, Reuters noted on December 5 that “two-thirds of the U.N. Security Council's members pushed . . . for the human rights situation in North Korea to be added to the council's agenda and for a formal meeting to be held this month, a move that cannot be blocked by Pyongyang ally China.” So it seems that Pyongyang will no longer be able to escape international attention being paid to its long-standing, comprehensive abuses of its people.
The naysayers, in wanting to shield Pyongyang, have sought to ignore one of the original purposes for the establishment of the United Nations, as specified in the preamble of its Charter: “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” They also have conveniently forgotten the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by a newly organized General Assembly on December 10, 1948, as a manifestation by the international community of universal revulsion over the atrocities, including genocide, carried out during the Second World War.
Of all crimes against humanity, those directed against the youngest and most vulnerable are certainly among the most emotionally devastating. One chamber at the concentration camp museum at Auschwitz is particularly disturbing. It contains the discarded clothing, tiny shoes, a broken doll, an abandoned toy, of little children. Similar crimes are being committed in North Korea today against the very young, including newborns.
Testimony provided at a COI hearing by witness Ms. Jee Heon-A, included the following:
“[T]here was this pregnant woman who was about 9 months pregnant. She worked all day. The babies who were born were usually dead, but in this case the baby was born alive. The baby was crying as it was born; we were so curious, this was the first time we saw a baby being born. So we were watching this baby and we were so happy. But suddenly we heard the footsteps. The security agent came in and . . . this agent told us to put the baby in the water upside down. So the mother was begging. ‘I was told that I would not be able to have the baby, but I actually got lucky and got pregnant so let me keep the baby, please forgive me,’ but this agent kept beating this woman, the mother who just gave birth. And the baby, since it was just born, it was just crying. And the mother, with her shaking hands she picked up the baby and she put the baby face down in the water. The baby stopped crying and we saw this water bubble coming out of the mouth of the baby.”
Infanticide is also the sentence for many of the offspring of North Korean refugee women forcibly repatriated by China.
The record of the international community in bringing to justice leaders guilty of crimes against humanity is a mixed one at best. Of World War II’s Axis leaders, only Hideki Tojo faced an international tribunal. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin and Mussolini was strung up by partisans in Milan after being caught and executed while attempting to flee. Some of the most notorious human rights violators of the post-War era, including Cambodia’s Pol Pot and Uganda’s Idi Amin, also escaped any official day of reckoning. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes, died in a prison cell in the Hague before a verdict was reached in his trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.