Tag Archive | "U.N."

Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

Critical Analysis: Will the Crimes Against Humanity perpetrated in North Korea be prosecuted in the ICC?

October 28, 2014

Speaking before the UN General Assembly on Oct. 28, 2014, Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) encouraged action to stem the ongoing human rights abuses in the country.  Specifically, Mr. Darusman encouraged submitting the Commission of Inquiry’s report to the Security Council to “send an unequivocal signal” to the DRPK that serious follow up would be taken.

The report itself found systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations amounting in some cases to crimes against humanity.  The human rights violations are unsurprising to most members of the international community.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both reported on the many egregious conditions imposed upon the people of the DRPK.  One example are prison camps for political offenders that impose ‘collective punishment’ (imprisoning entire families, including the children of offenders).  According to the US State Department, the political prisoners number in the tens of thousands and may exceed 80,000 individuals.

Although Mr. Darusman’s recommendation before the General Assembly made headlines, the statement is a reiteration of the findings of the Commission.  Specifically, the Commission stated that:

The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Rebublic of Korea are held accountable.  Options to achieve this end include a Security Council Referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations.

The language used in the Commission’s report demonstrates a clear call for justice on the international stage.

Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, Michael Kirby, spoke at U.N. headquarters, urging action on the report. Photo Credit: Salvatore Di Nolfi / European Pressphoto Agency, http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/17/world/la-fg-un-north-korea-20140218.

Non-cooperation has been an ongoing problem for the Commission, as is noted in the report, but recent developments must have caught the attention of the DRPK officials.  Mr. Darusman was “unexpectedly” met by four North Korean diplomats who sought to discuss a potential visit to the DPRK.  The meeting was the first contact with a UN inspector regarding the human rights situation in the last 10 years.  Reaching out may be a good sign, but it remains to be seen whether North Korea will allow Mr. Darusman access to the political prisons much less acknowledge their existence.

Equally unclear is whether the issue would withstand the veto powers of Russia or China if it reaches the Security Council.  Both nations have aligned with North Korean interests in the past.  Russia itself currently faces significant political pressure in the international arena, but that is certainly no predictor of how the delegation will vote.

Jordan Edmondson is a 3L at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Central African Republic Sees International Intervention

On December 5th, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized the deployment of French troops and the African Union Mission in Central Africa (MISCA) with the hopes of stemming the sectarian violence that is plaguing the Central African Republic.  On the 9th, the 1,600 French troops will attempt to begin disarming the fighting groups and restore order.  French Defense Minister is quoted saying that “first we’ll ask nicely, and if they don’t react, we’ll do it by force.” The Security Council also made it clear that the UN should be prepared to further bolster efforts in the CAR.  Provisions included requests that the Secretary-General undertake contingency preparations for the transformation of MISCA into a peacekeeping operation within three months.


French troops will begin efforts to restore order to the Central African Republic caused by violent Seleka rebel fighters. Image: AFP

In March of 2013, the existing government was ousted by the Seleka rebels when they seized the capital and leadership.  Since that time attacks on Christians and those loyal to the former Bozize regime by the predominantly Muslim Seleka forces have increased in number.  In response, self-defense groups known as “anti-balaka” have formed and perpetrated retaliatory violence.  Consequently, an environment of fear prevails throughout the CAR and the populace is divided along religious lines.  In the day preceding the passage of the UNSC resolution, more than 100 were killed in the capital of Bangui alone.  According to the Red Cross, an additional 394 were killed on the following Sunday.

Atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict rise to the level of war crimes according to investigators from the UN and Human Rights Watch. The problems confronted by the Central African Republic are compounded by the absence of stability and central governance.  The African Union Mission MISCA and the potential for an expanded UN peacekeeping mission are directed at building local capacity.  The United States has made a $40 million dollar financial contribution to MISCA because of this concern specifically as seen in a statement from US Secretary of State John Kerry, “The United States sees no evidence that the CAR transitional government has the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government.”

The coming weeks and possibly months will demonstrate whether the French forces can help bring stability to the CAR.  Some of the problems confronted by peacekeepers will be dealing with the religious tensions, the potential for trafficking in conflict minerals, and trying to neutralize largely de-centralized fighting forces.  The UNSC asked that all States take measures to prevent the sale or transfer of weapons, supplies, and funding to fighting groups in the CAR.  Regardless of what manifests in the future for the Central African Republic, a clear international mandate has been expressed with the hopes of restoring order, stopping the ongoing violence, and preventing future conflicts.

Jordan Edmondson is a 2L and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Don’t forget the “Lost Boys” of Sudan

The name “Lost Boys” was given to a group of over 20,000 boys, between the ages of 5 and 17, who were separated from their families during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005).  These “Lost Boys” of Sudan trekked enormous distances over a vast unforgiving wilderness, seeking refuge from the fighting that emerged when their Christian villages in southern Sudan were attacked by northern Islamist forces.  Orphaned, these boys traveled a thousand miles across 3 countries, Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  During their journey, half of the boys died due to starvation, dehydration, disease, and attacks by wild animals and enemy soldiers.  It took these boys 5 years to find safety in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya.  U.N. workers gave the “Lost Boys” their name after the lost boys in the fabled Peter Pan story.

Omar al-Bashir

Omar al-Bashir faces arrest warrants for criminal violations of the Rome Statute.

In 2000, the United States along with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees resettled approximately 3,800 Lost Boys in the United States across 38 cities.  The program was stopped after 9/11 for security reasons, though it was eventually restarted in 2004.  As these boys prepared to leave their refugee camps for America, they had to be prepared for a life that they could barely comprehend.  They had to be taught the concept of an electric stove, indoor bathrooms, and winter; essentially a crash course in America 101.  While many of the Lost Boys have become successful, attending medical school, law school, and joining the U.S. military, not all have been so fortunate.  It is no surprise that the horrors they faced as children compounded with being shipped to an unknown country, that some have turned to alcohol, drugs, and crime.

The perpetrator of these unimaginable horrors is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.  He came into power in a coup in 1989 and has ruled Sudan with an iron fist ever since.  There are currently 2 arrest warrants for President al-Bashir from the International Criminal Court (ICC).  It is alleged that he is criminally responsible for 10 violations of the Rome Statute based upon his individual criminal responsibility.  The counts include 5 counts of crimes against humanity, 2 counts of war crimes, and 3 counts of genocide.  These warrants require member countries to detain him if he enters into their territories.

Bashir has applied for a U.S. visa so that he may attend the upcoming U.N. General Assembly where he is scheduled to speak.  He would be the first head of state to address the U.N. General assembly while facing charges from the ICC, if he shows up as scheduled.  The U.S. government has made it clear that it does not want Bashir to arrive in New York, but the U.S. has never banned a visiting head of state that wants to speak to the U.N.  Furthermore, per a treaty dating back to 1947, the U.S. is obligated to issue the visa as the U.N. body’s host country.  Bashir says he has already booked his flight and hotel and that he is not worried about U.S. authorities arresting him, as demanded by international human rights groups, since the U.S. is not a member of the ICC.  Bashir says he has a right to attend the U.N. assembly and that “[n]obody in the U.S. can question me or hold me.”

The Lost Boys suffered as children and still suffer from those memories as adults.  Though the U.S. is not a member of ICC, it has ratified the Geneva Convention that punishes those who commit genocide and it has transferred suspects to the ICC before. If he appears in New York, let’s hope that the U.S. remembers the horrors the Lost Boys and millions of others have suffered at the hands of al-Bashir and that the U.S. takes al-Bashir into custody.

Sarah Emery is a 3L and the Executive Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law