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A Chance to Squeeze the Boy Dictator into a Jail Cell

By Kyung B. Lee Created: February 6, 2013 Last Updated: February 13, 2013
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Pop quiz: how many times has the UN Security Council passed stirring resolutions against North Korea for its nuclear weapons program? Three times? Six times? A gazillion times?

If you answered “a gazillion times,” you’re probably right on some emotional level. But the correct answer is six, which doesn’t make the ongoing conflict between the Security Council and the rogue regime any less repetitious or absurd.

The latest resolution on Jan. 22 comes on the heels of similar ones in May 1993, April 2004, July 2006, October 2006, and June 2009.

True to form, the North Korean regime responded to the Security Council’s latest salvo with yet another round of Godfather-style posturing.

The country’s Stalinist-gangster regime, which shakes down the international community for billions in aid while starving its citizens and enslaving them in Soviet-style gulags, once again threatened to continue its nuclear program, attack South Korea, and break off talks on de-nuclearization that were already broken off back in 2008.

For her part, Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, gamely praised the latest Security Council resolution and sanctions as “new.” And, to be fair, the sanctions do add travel bans on a few more mid-level North Korean officials such as Mr. Paek Chang-ho, the head of North Korea’s space agency.

But since, as a citizen of a totalitarian prison state, Mr. Paek was not free to leave his country anyway, it is difficult to imagine what effect the travel ban could have. Before the resolution, Mr. Paek couldn’t vacation in Florida. Now, Mr. Paek really, really can’t vacation in Florida.

Since the only person who is free to come and go from North Korea as he pleases is the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un, one can’t help but wonder why the UN didn’t ban the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un.

Isn’t punishing Mr. Paek while letting the Supreme Leader go free a bit like cops arresting muggers while letting Mafia bosses off the hook?

As everyone knows, this latter absurdity did happen in the U.S. under the reign of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

But just as the FBI eventually began targeting Mafia chieftains, so too there is a real possibility that the UN might finally try to prosecute Kim Jong-Un and put him on trial in the International Criminal Court, or ICC, for crimes against humanity.

Creating a Commission of Inquiry

Like the war on the Mafia, this would likely prove a drawn-out affair. But the UN finally seems ready to take the first step, which is the creation of a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity in North Korea.

The campaign for such a commission picked up steam in 2011 with the formation of a coalition of 40 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Toronto-based Council for Human Rights in North Korea.

And it has been championed in the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Economist, and National Post, as well as by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

Now, Japan is reportedly preparing a resolution to create a commission of inquiry at the next UN Human Rights Council meeting in March, and Australia and the EU are expected to support it.

At present Canada is not a member of the UN Human Rights Council and is therefore unable to cast a vote. But as a member of the UN General Assembly it has the right to address the council and lend its support to Japan on the issue.

To date, the Canadian government has been cool to the idea of a commission of inquiry. At a Sept. 27, 2012, meeting of a Parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights, a foreign affairs representative explained that a commission was considered unfeasible, since China would likely veto it.

It is true that China would probably veto a commission if it were proposed at the UN Security Council, but China wields no veto at the UN Human Rights Council. Indeed, China, along with North Korea’s other two main supporters, Russia and Cuba, will not even be sitting on the council when it reconvenes in late February.

It seems that the time to take the first step in the criminal prosecution of Kim Jong-Un has finally arrived. So we are urging the Canadian government to drop its misgivings and lend Japan all the support it can in its attempts to bring Kim Jong-Un and his criminal regime to justice.

After all, the FBI finally managed to put John “Teflon Don” Gotti away. So maybe one day the UN and ICC can squeeze the boy dictator into a jail cell too.

Kyung B. Lee is President of the Toronto-based Council for Human Rights in North Korea.

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