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The Miami Herald: The thugs in N. Korea

February 22, 2014 - 12:05am

Rarely has any United Nations panel issued as powerful an indictment against any regime in the world as the report made public this week condemning the murderous government of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

The report contained a harrowing catalog of inhuman practices used by North Korea’s rulers to stay in power and keep the country’s 24 million people in a state of unending fear: “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape.”

As if that were not enough, starvation has often been the lot of powerless North Koreans wholly dependent on the government for sustenance, particularly those in the countryside.

Deprived of all human rights, including the right to live, anyone suspected of dissent is cast into prison camps where some 200,000 people are believed to be held under the most horrible conditions imaginable. Many never leave.

The 36-page report and a 372-page annex criticize the political and security apparatus of the state, describing the frequent resort to public executions and other despicable practices “to terrorize the population into submission.”

A U.N.-appointed panel headed by retired Australian Judge Michael Donald Kirby delivered the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week after a yearlong investigation. Kirby said his panel would recommend that the U.N. Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court to make Kim Jong Un and members of his “thugocracy” face trial.

Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen — and North Korea’s brutal state won’t change — because its ally and benefactor, China, holds a Security Council veto. But even so, this authoritative report of the regime’s crimes against humanity is a step forward for advocates of North Korean human rights. As Kirby noted, the report means the world can no longer say, We didn’t know. Now everyone knows.

Barring Security Council action, the next best thing is for the U.N. Human Rights Council to create a structure to monitor human-rights practices in North Korea and issue periodic reports in the hope that, sooner or later, the regime gets the message: The world is watching — and may one day hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.

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