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(Yonhap Interview) Referral to ICC may cause N. Korea unrest: ex-chief

All Headlines 13:55 February 21, 2016

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- Referring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity may disrupt the country's leadership and destabilize the regime, a former ICC president says.

"The North Korean elite may start doubting Kim Jong-un's leadership and make plans by themselves, and this could fracture the North's power structure," said Song Sang-hyun, who served as ICC president from 2009 to 2015, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday.

Still, Kim won't likely stand trial anytime soon since the ICC requires all defendants to appear before court before a judgment is made, Song said.

Last week, the U.N. special rapporteur on the North's human rights issue called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to officially notify Kim that he may be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

The U.N. General Assembly has adopted a resolution calling for the North's referral for two years in a row last year, but it's unclear whether it will pass the U.N. Security Council vote, as China and Russia have voiced opposition. According to the Rome Statute of the ICC, UNSC is the only entity that can refer North Korea, a non-ICC member state, to the international tribunal.

If referred to the ICC, Kim may no longer be able to visit 123 of the ICC member countries and could be arrested in a non-ICC state, Song said, adding arrest warrants issued by the ICC never expire.

On the likelihood of Kim's conviction, Song was equivocal.

"ICC trials have never been as simple or easy as criminal trials in South Korea," he said. "So it's difficult to give an accurate prediction."

Only one person has been convicted by the ICC so far. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of Congo was found guilty of crimes against humanity in 2012.

North Korea wouldn't be the first country to be referred to the ICC. The UNSC previously called on the tribunal to investigate Sudan and Libya, both non-ICC members.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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