Families of missing Japanese to urge prosecution of North Korean leader at Hague court

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2018 10:49 PM

TOKYO (Reuters) - The families of Japanese abducted by North Korea, and those believed to have been taken, will urge the International Criminal Court to prosecute the North's leader, saying the lack of information about their loved ones is a human rights abuse.

North Korea admitted in 2002 it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies, and five of them returned to Japan. Tokyo suspects that hundreds more may have been taken.

Eight people, including Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister Rumiko is said by North Korea to have died, will travel to The Hague to urge the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for human rights abuses because of his refusal to provide information about their family members.

The group will present a petition requesting investigation into the disappearances as a case of crimes against humanity to raise international attention about the issue, said Kazuhiro Araki, who heads a support group for families of the missing.

"Right now, with the Olympics, South Korea is really making a connection with the North, which we did not expect," Araki said, referring to talks between the two Koreas over the winter Olympics starting next month that have led to a thaw in cross-border ties.

"So we believe this will bring a lot of attention to Japan's different situation," he said.

North Korea has repeatedly pledged to reopen investigations into the fate of all missing Japanese, only to backtrack on those promises later.

Araki acknowledged that the move would be mostly symbolic but said it was still valuable.

"Arresting Kim Jong Un and bringing him in would be rather difficult, but it's extremely important to show that there are human rights abuses taking place," he said.

One of those traveling to The Hague is Misa Morimoto, whose identical twin sister - so alike that they could swap classrooms and fool their high school teachers - vanished when they were 20 and is believed to have been abducted by Pyongyang.

"As her family member, I want to do everything I possibly can," Morimoto said in an email.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)