The thugs in N. Korea

Rarely has any United Nations panel issued as powerful an indictment against any regime in the world as the report made public this week condemning the murderous government of North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

The report contained a harrowing catalog of inhuman practices used by North Korea's rulers to stay in power and keep the country's 24 million people in a state of unending fear: "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape."

As if that were not enough, starvation has often been the lot of powerless North Koreans wholly dependent on the government for sustenance, particularly those in the countryside.

Deprived of all human rights, including the right to live, anyone suspected of dissent is cast into prison camps where some 200,000 people are believed to be held under the most horrible conditions imaginable. Many never leave.

The 36-page report and a 372-page annex criticize the political and security apparatus of the state, describing the frequent resort to public executions and other despicable practices "to terrorize the population into submission."

A U.N.-appointed panel headed by retired Australian Judge Michael Donald Kirby delivered the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week after a yearlong investigation. Mr. Kirby said his panel would recommend that the U.N. Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court to make Kim Jong Un and members of his thugocracy face trial.

Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen - and North Korea's brutal state won't change - because its ally and benefactor, China, holds a Security Council veto. But even so, this authoritative report of the regime's crimes against humanity is a step forward for advocates of North Korean human rights. As Mr. Kirby noted, the report means the world can no longer say, We didn't know. Now everyone knows.

Barring Security Council action, the next best thing is for the U.N. Human Rights Council to create a structure to monitor human-rights practices in North Korea and issue periodic reports in the hope that, sooner or later, the regime gets the message: The world is watching - and may one day hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.

—The Miami Herald, Feb. 20

 

Kerry delivers a timely lesson on carbon

Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit Sunday to Jakarta, Indonesia, addressed the increasingly pressing issue of climate change.

He was speaking to Indonesians, but he could have just as easily, given the relevance and importance of his remarks, been speaking to Americans. China and the United States accounted for 40 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere that last year made the level of carbon dioxide the highest in recorded history. Indonesia, surprisingly, is third among the world's carbon pollution producers. Its emissions come from deforestation and agriculture rather than from burning oil and coal.

Kerry walked his audience through the familiar sequence of events. Temperatures increase, glaciers and other ice formations melt, sea levels rise and, if the phenomenon continues uninterrupted, by the end of this century half of Jakarta will be under water. He did not spare the guns on the skeptics of climate change either. The science of climate change, he said, is "absolutely certain" and is accepted by 97 percent of scientists.

Taking dead aim at Americans who oppose action on climate change, he said the rest of the world's population should not be diverted from dealing with the problem by a tiny minority of "shoddy scientists" and extreme ideologues.

He pledged President Barack Obama's attention to the matter and said he had taken his just-completed visit to China as an opportunity to engage its leaders on the issue. He said that governments should stop giving incentives to the coal and oil industries and take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by a rapidly expanding global energy market and by renewable energy technology.

Kerry, who has been concentrating most of his energy on Middle East negotiations - between the Israelis and Palestinians, over Iran's nuclear program and economic sanctions, and regarding the Syrian conflict - addressed in Jakarta what he considers to be an equally urgent global issue. He ranked climate change alongside epidemics, poverty, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a global priority requiring attention and action.

"It's everyone's responsibility," he said, and "lack of political resolve" is the problem. History and future generations will not forgive lack of action by today's leaders.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 18