Recent news articles on Human Liberty are taken from international headlines …
Group documents crimes of North
Human rights abuses must be recognized by law, professor says
(Korea Joongang Daily News, 2014. 1. 15)
By Jihye Yoo
For years, activists and the international community have condemned the human rights abuses prevalent in North Korea, but according to Lee Jung-hoon, an international studies professor at Yonsei University and Korea’s human rights ambassador for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, these actions have never yet been clearly defined as crimes against humanity.
“So far, there has been a clear red line in defining North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program, even though North Korea has frequently crossed it over. But in terms of the human rights of the North Korean people, there has been no red line to define it,” Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“It is natural for a criminal to be punished,” he said. “And there is no exception for North Korea in terms of its crimes against humanity.”
In an effort to shed light on human rights violations in the world’s most reclusive state, Lee and other high-profile international specialists officially launched the Human Liberty Center, a nonprofit civic group, yesterday in an opening ceremony at Yonsei University.
Lee and the members of the center are working toward wrapping up their one-year investigation into the human rights situation in North Korea, an ambitious project that was carried out with the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI) under the United Nations.
They plan to submit their report on the investigation in March.
The report will clearly define the human rights violations in North Korea as inhumane crimes, Lee said.
Though they are not sure how they can positively identify these abuses as “crimes” per international law, but Lee said it may be possible to record names and testimonies against certain individuals in the regime.
“Michael Kirby, chairman of the COI, visited South Korea last year and collected testimonies from North Korean defectors,” Lee said.
“At the time, he asked victims for the names and the titles of their attackers and to describe their appearance in detail.
“Punishing crimes against humanity is to designate the perpetrator,” he continued. “Although we can obtain the names of low-ranking soldiers or patrollers now, we could probably collect more evidence to figure out who ordered these crimes.”
To prove instances of these crimes, the center is also preparing an independent report, Lee said, and is seeking legal guidance from Hogan Lovells, a renowned international law firm, about how it could hold listed criminals in North Korea accountable for their crimes.
The center intends to file a suit against the criminals with the International Criminal Court, he said, while pushing the Communist regime to cooperate.
Lee said prosecuting criminals in North Korea could also have repercussions for China, North Korea’s closest ally.
“Although China [has not actively pushed] North Korea about its human rights abuses, the unstable situation in North Korea, at the same time, is a great threat to China,” Lee said. “If the international community provides clear guidance on these human rights issues, China would have reason to turn its back on Pyongyang, because it is also looking to promote itself as a global leader.”
# # #
휴먼 리버티 센터 연 이정훈 인권대사 “북한 인권문제에도 레드 라인 긋겠다”
Human rights ambassador Lee Jung-hoon who opens Human Liberty Center says, “We will draw red line
for North Korea human rights issue”
Put pressure on North Korea by collecting names of responsible people
The first step for international community to prosecute North Korea regime
(2014.1.15, Joongang Ilbo)
By Jihye Yoo
With the North Korea human rights issue getting global attention after the execution of Jang Sung Taek, ‘Human Liberty Center’, a nonprofit organization which will focus on human rights issues in North Korea opened on the 14th. Human Rights Ambassador Lee Jung-Hoon, who’s a professor at Yonsei GSIS played an critical role to open the center. Amb. Lee who opened the center with world leading figures emphasized that human rights abuses in North Korea are clearly crimes against humanity and people who are responsible need to be prosecuted.
He said, “The international community set clear ‘red line’ regarding nuclear weapons and long distance missile in North Korea but there hasn’t been any red line regarding the human rights issues” and added that the Human Liberty Center will play that role.
The center will support UN COI using its activity as a momentum. So far, international community have blamed North Korea human rights issue but never clearly defined it as crimes against humanity. However, there is widespread expectation that COI, which conducted research for about a year, will define human rights abuses towards North Koreans as crimes against humanity. That will become the first step for the international community to judge human rights issues in North Korea.
Amb. Lee said, “When Michael Kirby, chairman of the COI, visited South Korea last year to collect testimonies from North Korean defectors, he asked victims for the names and the titles of their attackers and to describe their appearance in detail.” He said, “Identifying perpetrators is the first step of prosecuting crimes against humanity. Although we can obtain the names of low-ranking soldiers or patrollers now, we could probably collect more evidence to figure out the top level people who ordered these crimes.”
The Center is preparing an independent report to support this. A British law firm Hogan Lovells will work with the Center to produce a legal report how to process legal procedure with perpetrators in North Korea who committed crimes against humanity. Through the report, the Center plans to bring out visible results such as press charges at ICC to pressure the North Korea regime.
Amb. Lee pointed out we need to consider the impact not only on North Korea but also on China through pursuing prosecuting crimes against humanity. He explained that while China keeps protecting North Korea, but unstable political situation in North Korea is a big threat to China and if the international community provides clear guidelines based on universal human rights, China would have reason to turn its back on Pyongyang.
# # #
Shocking testimonial from a defector, “when crossing the border, 8 out of 10 North Korean defector women get sexually assaulted”
(Joongang Ilbo, 2014.1.14)
By Jihye Yoo
“When crossing the border, 8 out of 10 North Korean defector women get sexually assaulted. I was detained for three days at the border, and we were all lined up for some guys to come look at us head to toe like we were some kind of animals, and they negotiated the prices. I was sold for 8,000 won.”
On the 14th at a lecture room at New Millennium Hall at Yonsei University, a video was shown at the briefing to announce the launch of Human Liberty Center, which urges prosecution of the people who are responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea. The middle aged woman who appears in the video is a North Korean defector named Choi Gyeong-oak. The room was filled with somber awakening by the story told by her in a quiet tone.
Ms. Choi, who appears in the video, decided to flee North Korea because of two daughters. They ate soils out of hunger but couldn’t digest it. Their digestive system got clogged and Ms. Choi put their face down and tried to loosen their stools with a wooden stick. Their anus were torn and blood came out. That’s when Ms. Choi decided to leave the country to be responsible for her kids. She felt that wherever she goes, it will be difficult to face worse incidents.
She decided to settle down first and patch her two daughters. She believed the broker saying it takes 15 min to walk to the Chinese side and crossed the fence in the middle of winter. She was 7 month pregnant. However, after walking three days and nights, she didn’t get to the Chinese side. It felt like she was coming back to the same spot no matter how much she walked. She felt exhausted and tried to pee. When she stood up, she felt strange. Something heavy was hanging between her legs. The baby was born three months before the due date. The baby was crying but the sound was so weak. She couldn’t feel the heart beat. She had see her baby dying in her arms without even feeding her baby for once.
It wasn’t the only her baby that she lost while crossing the border. She also had to cut several toes because of frostbite while walking a few days in the middle of cold winter and now she only has three toes left.
What Ms Choi went through is merely part of grave atrocity North Korean defectors go through. Ambassador Lee Jung-hoon, who’s the head of Human Liberty Center, shared what he learned at the COI hearing in Seoul last August. One defector shared what he witnessed at the prison camp. The guard at the prison camp approached prisoners saying he felt sorry for their situation and offered to help them escape. The prisoner didn’t participate because he was suspicious but several believed the guard and attempted to escape through the wall he indicated. However, before they finished climbing up the wall, gun shots were fired, and everyone got killed. The one who shot them was no other than the guard who had offered to help. Amb. Lee said, “I later found out the award is given when the prisoner who attempted an escape is caught or killed. They can go to university. Some kind of education. So there was incentive. The guard’s seniors actually knew that prisoners were climbing up the wall deceived by the guard. However, the award was still given.” Amb. Lee felt sad about other incident. “One defector lost his finger by a torture at the prison camp, but he said he was thankful to the person who cut his finger. He felt fortunate that he only lost his finger not his life.” According to Amb. Lee, raged by atrocity, Michael Kurby of COI often cried during the hearing.
Amb. Lee also talked about what he witnessed during a press briefing in Washington D.C.where a North Korean defector woman testified about the human rights abuses in North Korea. She was telling her stories in a calm manner, but there wasn’t much reaction from the foreign press. Words were not sufficient to relay the cruelness she encountered. All of sudden, she went up to the desk and pulled up her skirt. Her thigh had terrible scars where flesh was sliced out, which made it hard to believe she was able to stand. The journalists lost their words and only focused on taking pictures. In prison camps in North Korea, is often happens that guards take turns to rape female prisoners and murder them on spot in order to keep the secret.
Human Liberty aims to press charge and prosecute these people who shot and torture people in the camp. The COI report which comes out in March is expected to maintain proof that human rights abuses in North Korea are crimes against humanity. So far, the international community has blamed North Korea for human rights issue but this will be the first time to define it as crime against humanity. It will announce “red line” for human rights issues in Korea.
Although it has not been decided how much details the COI report will entail, it is expected to name the responsible people and their charges. While it might be difficult to mention the top level, it can mention specific names of guards at prison camp or person in charge of the army.
Human Liberty Center is going to work with Hogan Lovells to produce an independent legal opinion to support COI. If there is enough evidence, preparing grounds to prosecute them through UN Security Council or General Assembly resolution or through ICC is possible. The special trial such as Nuremberg can also happen.
Such efforts by the international community can act as a big pressure on North Korean regime. Shim Yoon Joe, National Assembly member who attended the Human Liberty Center launch briefing said, “West Germany collected and stored massive data regarding the human rights abuses in East Germany prior to reunification. It was groundwork to prepare legal action against the people who committed crimes. Such efforts contributed on improving human rights situation in East Germany.”
# # #
“북한 인권에 있어서 ‘레드라인’ 단 한 번도 없었다!”
“There has not been a red line in North Korea human rights issue”
By Chigu Kang
Human Liberty Center, a non-profit movement working to protect and promote human rights, is established under Institute for Modern Korean Studies at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies(GSIS) in Seoul, South Korea. Lee Jung-hoon, the head of the Center, announced the launch on the 14th at Yonsei University. Lee, who is also Human Rights Ambassador, said during the welcoming remarks that the Center aims to provide effective support for COI’s report in March and the Center is established at the university to raise awareness among the academics and students.
In particular, Amb. Lee emphasized that “More active international pressure is needed to prosecute the North Korea regime regarding its serious human rights violations as war criminals in the Third Reich were prosecuted. The launch of Human Liberty Center and the producing of the (Hogan Lovells’) report will build foundation for raise awareness of human rights issues globally and urge countries to play more active roles to pressure North Korea.”
Amb. Lee, Tae Hoon Kim, head of ‘Lawyers for human rights and unification of Korea’, National Assemblyman Shim Yoon-joe participated in the panel about North Korea human rights issues to commemorate the launch of Human Liberty Center.
Ambassador Lee asked for more attention on North Korea human rights issue. He said, “There has been red line for security issues such as UN Security council resolutions about nuclear weapon and long distance missile programs. However, there has been no such thing regarding human rights issues in North Korea. Human Liberty will work on drawing red line to deliver a clear message that no more human rights abuses will be accepted.”
Tae Hoon Kim said, “We have established association of lawyers in order to improve North Korea human rights issue. We will also engage global movement to prosecute crimes against humanity in North Korea by moot court and other activities. It is critical for NGOs and non profits around the world to discuss how to prosecute crimes against the humanity surrounding North Korea.”
National Assemblyman Shim Yoon-Joe expressed his stance about North Korea Human Rights act. He said, “There will be more efforts in National Assembly regarding passing the North Korea Human Rights act. It’s a big improvement that the opposition party has come to the table for sincere discussion. We have seen much activities among NGOs and the opposition party couldn’t ignore such movement. More attention and support are needed to pass the North Korea Human Rights act.”
Human Liberty is an international non-profit movement dedicated to protecting fundamental human rights by promoting the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948).
# # #