North Korea committed crimes against humanity, UN report to conclude

This picture taken on Feb 16, 2014, by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean people offering flower bouquets to the statues of late leaders Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang for the 72
This picture taken on Feb 16, 2014, by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean people offering flower bouquets to the statues of late leaders Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang for the 72nd birth anniversary of Kim Jong Il.  -- PHOTO: AFP/ KCNA VIA KNS

SEOUL - A year-long investigation by the United Nations will conclude that North Korea has committed crimes against humanity, according to a leaked outline of the report, believed to be one of the most detailed and devastating ever published by the UN.

A panel of experts mandated by the UN's Human Rights Council said North Koreans had suffered "unspeakable atrocities", BBC reported.

In the most authoritative indictment to date of abuses carried out by Pyongyang's leaders, the panel heard evidence of torture, enslavement, sexual violence, severe political repression and other crimes, Washington Post reported.

Testimony to the panel included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera, BBC said.

The full report is expected to contain hundreds of pages of further evidence of a nationwide policy of control through terror, it added.

The UN panel will recommend that the regime's crimes be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, according to the Associated Press, which obtained the outline of the findings.

The report of the three-member Commission of Inquiry will be released on Monday.

The Associated Press quoted from a leaked version of the panel's report, which accuses the regime of taking decisions aimed at maintaining its own rule "in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population".

In establishing the panel, the UN has sought to address the challenge of a nation where abuses are carried out by an entrenched family-run government that faces almost no threat of international intervention, the Post said.

The regime keeps tens of thousands of political prisoners in camps, and divides the population up in terms of presumed loyalty to the regime.

Civilians live under a system of neighbourhood surveillance where they are encouraged to denounce each other, according to defectors.

Although this information has been in the public domain for years, the panel's inquiry is the highest-profile international attempt to investigate the claims, BBC reported.

Activists and human rights lawyers say the report, at minimum, will lead to broader global awareness of the North's city-size gulags and systematic abductions of foreigners. But they also say that the North's traditional ally, China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, could block any referral of findings to The Hague.

"It is exciting but also risky that the Commission appears to have requested the Security Council refer the situation in (North Korea) to the International Criminal Court," Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer and an expert on North Korean abuses, said in an email, according to Washington Post.

"There is no doubt that legally such a referral would be highly justified and appropriate. But it is also bound to infuriate China."

The ICC defines crimes against humanity as any widespread or systematic attack - using extermination, torture or rape, for instance - carried out against civilians.