UN investigators have called for North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings.
According to a report by the team of 12 investigators, Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners.
Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters news agency that the crimes catalogued by the team were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War II.
“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.
“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.
Asked why the report had specifically mentioned Kim, Kirby told journalists: “A great deal of responsibility must lie on such a person. If you are at the centre, then you have power to change things.”
“I do expect that the report will galvanise action on the part of the international community,” he said.
Asked how many North Korean officials might be guilty of having committed the gravest crimes, Kirby replied: “The potential would be running into the hundreds, I would think.”
North Korea says it “categorically and totally” rejects the accusations, insisting they are based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.