By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights agency welcomes the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea, and the inquiry's conclusion that the regime in North Korea is committing crimes against humanity.
'I hope the international community will be moved by the detail (in this report). Too many times in this building, there are reports and no action,' said Michael Kirby, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, speaking at U.N. headquarters in Geneva.
According to a news release from the agency, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) urges the UN Security Council to act on the inquiry's recommendation to refer the human rights crisis in North Korea to the International Criminal Court.
The Commission of Inquiry, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013 and chaired by Australian Justice Michael Kirby, concludes that "the gravity, scale and nature" of the violations of human rights in North Korea "reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
A Reuters story reported that the findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.
Reuters said defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called "Escape from Camp 14."
North Korea's diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings shortly before they were made public.
"We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of 'human rights protection,'" it said a statement sent to Reuters.
The 400-page report details crimes against humanity including "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."
It concludes that such crimes against humanity are continuing "because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place."
CSW said the inquiry also notes that "there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the right s to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association."
It concludes that the regime "considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat." As a result, "Christians are prohibited from practicing their religion and are persecuted."
Severe punishments are inflicted on "people caught practicing Christianity."
The report estimates that between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four political prison camps, "where deliberate starvation has been used as a means of control and punishment."
In its detailed recommendations, the Commission of Inquiry recommends targeted sanctions against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, an extension of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea.
It also recommends the establishment of a UN-mandated structure and database "to help to ensure accountability for human rights violations" building on "the collection of evidence and documentation work of the commission."
It a lso calls on China to respect the principle of non-refoulement and end its practice of forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the release, "In 2007, CSW published a report, North Korea: A Case to Answer, A Call to Act, which recommended the establishment of an international inquiry with a view to referring a case to the International Criminal Court. Today, after seven years of sustained advocacy, that day has come."
He added, "We pay tribute to the extraordinary work of Justice Michael Kirby and his two fellow commissioners, and we welcome the publication of what is without doubt the most comprehensive, detailed and authoritative documentation of North Korea's appalling human rights violations."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.