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Prosecuting Kim Jong Il

Posted August. 31, 2010 13:10,   


Kim Jong Il’s crimes committed against the people of both Koreas are incomparable to those by any other dictator or heinous criminal in the world. If prosecutors charge him, his arraignment notice would span tens of thousands of pages. It is even harder to imagine how long it would take for an investigation and trial, including the time needed for witness testimony. Despite this, a movement to bring Kim to justice has begun in South Korea. The Gathering of Families of People Abducted by North Korea and former torture victims of the North’s gulags will soon push for Kim`s prosecution for crimes against humanity with the help of a lawyers’ group. The group is also considering filing a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC is different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a U.N. organization making rulings on disputes between countries. Established in 2002, the ICC has 110 member countries and handles individual cases such as massacres, crimes against humanity, war crimes and invasions. An ICJ trial can be set up only after obtaining the agreement of the parties to the dispute while members and even the U.N. Security Council can be prosecuted by the ICC. Unlike the U.N., however, the ICC is limited in its role to a degree because the U.S., China and the majority of Arab countries are not members.

The ICC handed out a life sentence to Tharcisse Renzaho, the former mayor of the Rwandan capital of Kigali who led the genocide of about 800,000 people. The trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for “ethnic cleansing” stopped after his death. The ICC also issued an arrest warrant against incumbent Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on the charge of killing 35,000 civilians in the war in Darfur in 2003. Bashir is laughing at the ICC, but since the world has criticized his crimes in watching the ICC`s activities, the arrest warrant is far from meaningless.

In 2007, ICC member South Korea legislated a law on punishing crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The purpose is to provide active cooperation in punishing criminals under trial by the ICC. Allowing the death penalty and life sentences, this law is binding and can serve as grounds for punishing Kim Jong Il. It remains to be seen how prosecutors and the ICC will respond to the prosecution request by the families of abductees. There is no way to bring Kim to justice or arrest him, but making his heinous crimes known to the world will have great significance.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)