The communist government led by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il must be investigated for crimes against humanity for alleged human rights violations including extreme torture, sexual slavery and prison brutality, defectors said Thursday.
About 150 defectors from North Korea signed a petition urging the International Criminal Court to investigate North Korea and arrest its authoritarian leader for alleged rights violations. A group of defectors will travel to The Hague, Netherlands, next week to file the petition with the court, they said.
Activist Ha Tae-keung said if Sudan President Omar al-Bashir could be charged in March with war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities in the Darfur region, Kim Jong Il should be prosecuted, too.
"North Korea's crimes against humanity are no less serious than Sudan's," he told a news conference in Seoul.
North Korea has one of the world's worst human rights records but dismisses criticism as part of a U.S.-led attempt to overthrow its regime.
Last month, a key U.N. committee expressed "very serious concern" over widespread reports of rights violations. North Korea rejected the statement as "a trite political plot hatched by hostile forces."
North Korea "categorically and totally rejects as it did in the past any 'resolution' fabricated by the U.S. and its followers to do harm to the ideology and system" in the country, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
North Korea runs at least five large political prison camps that hold an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, according to the U.S. State Department. Inmates are forced to toil for more than 10 hours a day, are poorly fed and do not receive medical aid, according to former inmates.
"Many people died while serving in prison camps," said Jung Gyoung-il, who served three years in the North's infamous Yodok camp before fleeing the country in 2003. "When people died, we weren't that sad because we received an extra bowl of rice for burying them."
The International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, went into force in 2002. It is an independent body, not a U.N. court, seeking to prosecute individuals responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed after July 2002.
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International Criminal Court: http://www.icc-cpi.int