Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Starvation as a Crime Against Humanity

The thorough and detailed Report of the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea includes a very complete discussion of crimes against humanity. One of the more innovative aspects of the Commission's discussion concerns mass starvation, something that has been a feature of life in North Korea for many years. The Commission concludes that mass starvation resulting from policy decisions constituted a crime against humanity. The relevant part of the Report begins at paragraph 1115. The Report explains that North Korea had become reliant upon the Soviet Union and China to make up its own deficiencies in food production. But by the 1990s, it could no longer meet its needs for food in this way. The Report continues (at para. 1121):

With a famine already underway, relevant DPRK officials adopted a series of decisions and policies that violated international law and aggravated mass starvation. This greatly increased the number of people who subsequently starved to death. The archives of the DPRK may one day provide greater insights into the underlying motivations. Based on the testimony and other information available to it, the Commission could not conclude that DPRK officials acted with the subjective purpose of starving its general population or even a part thereof to death. However, according to the findings of the Commission, the authorities were fully aware that a number of decisions they took in the 1990s would greatly aggravate mass starvation and the related death toll in the ordinary course of events. They nevertheless took these decisions because they prioritized the preservation of the political system of the DPRK, the Supreme Leader and the elites surrounding him. As noted above, this level of criminal intent is sufficient for the crime of extermination.

This is among the very interesting findings of the Commission. Its Report runs to more than 370 pages. 

1 comment:

Vanessa van Dijsseldonk said...

This article has illustrated one of the documents that I have been hoping to read some time soon. It has been long awaited that a statement made by the UN regarding the definition on crimes of humanity and to include violations of economic social and cultural rights, such as violations on the right to food. Violations of economic, social and cultural rights have usually been ignored by the international community, as it does not amount to crimes against humanity, such as violations on the right to life. I do not wish to take away importance from the violations already contained in international criminal law, but perhaps it is time to add more violations, such as starvation to this list of crimes, as indicated.

Thank you for pointing out this report to me and I will be sure to fully read it.