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North Korea at the International Criminal Court?

Discussion on the Kim regime in The Hague


© Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea

During the 15th Assembly of the Member States of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague last Monday, a well-attended discussion took place on whether it is reasonable and possible to initiate an indictment against the North Korean ruling elite before the ICC. Organizers of the so-called "side events" of the ICC meeting were the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK, South Korea), the Geoffrey Nice Foundation on Law, History, Politics and Society (Netherlands) and the Giordano Bruno Stiftung (Germany).​

The international community is still at a loss about the human rights situation in North Korea. Since a UN Commission of Inquiry published its report on the subject in February 2014 (download available here in English, French, and Spanish), there has been no doubt internationally about the devastating extent of the crimes against humanity (camps for political prisoners, public executions of regime critics, clan liability over three generations, forced labour, etc.), but so far there is no strategy to effectively counteract this.

Nevertheless, the representatives of North Korea reacted deeply unsettled to the publication of the UN investigation report. While all allegations were previously denied to be false, the report led to contradictory reactions by the regime: First, some crimes against humanity were admitted (e.g. the existence of camps for political prisoners), but later denied again. There is no doubt that Pyongyang was deeply concerned about the publication by the UN and about the possibility of prosecution before the International Criminal Court as well.

However: Since North Korea has not signed the Rome Statutes, the International Criminal Court has rejected the initiation of an investigation proposed by the UN Commission of Inquiry for the time being. In the meeting of the 15th ICC Assembly it was still discussed what possibilities there might be to initiate a trial against the regime.

Read here the complete report on the event in The Haag (German language):