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Justice ministry to set up N. Korea human rights archive

All News 09:08 April 10, 2016

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Ministry of Justice said Sunday it will set up an in-house archive to keep complete tabs on North Korea's human rights violations, so as to hold those responsible for abuses accountable in the future.

The move aims to collect and document data that can be used to punish human rights violations after reunification and to take well-documented offenses to the International Criminal Court (ICC) even before the two Korea's become one again, it said.

The Ministry of Unification plans to transfer records of interviews and testimonies provided by North Korean defectors it has collected over the years to the justice ministry's new archive.

The move comes as the North Korea Human Rights bill that was passed earlier in the year by parliament goes into effect in September. The bill had been a source of controversy for some time because liberals were concerned that its passage would further antagonize Pyongyang and hinder inter-Korean relations.

In addition, a state prosecutor from the justice ministry will be assigned to work at the unification ministry's North Korea's human rights record center that is tasked with initially processing defectors from the communist country and compiling data on systematic abuses committed by Pyongyang.

"The preannouncement of legislation for the enforcement decree will be made in the middle of this month outlining the changes that will take place and the creation of systematic record keeping," the justice ministry said.

It said the human rights center will transfer data it has collected every three months to the record archive.

"The prosecutor dispatched will not be present for interviews with defectors all the time but will take part if the need arises," a government source said. "If the prosecutor's presence is required, it will be because there is a need to document victims of criminal cases."

Others said that the creation of an archive will send a clear warning to North Korean officials that they will eventually be punished for their mistreatment of people and crimes against humanity.

North Korea is often cited as one of the worst human rights violator states in the world. It has routinely been accused of deporting dissidents to concentration camps and carrying out state-sanctioned torture and summary executions of those that oppose the regime.

Seoul has said that North Korea leader Kim Jong-un is included on the list of people who would be punished for human rights violations committed. It said cases involving North Korea's top leadership could be sent to the ICC, which could kick off legal proceedings.

Officials, however, pointed out that for a case to be tried at the international court, it must be approved by the United Nations Security Council, which may not be an easy task.

China and Russia are veto-wielding council members that in the past have been reluctant to put too much pressure on North Korea.


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