Jack Rendler, Country Specialist for North Korea, Amnesty International
a.) Existance of An Attack
It should be noted at the outset that the notion of attack is not used in the same terms as in the law of war crimes. The attack does not have to be a part of the armed conflict and it does not need to involve the use of armed force. An attack rather encompasses any mistreatment of the civilian population and it may consist of non-violent acts, such as exerting pressure on the population to act in a particular way.
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An “attack directed against an civilian population” is defined in Article 7(2)(a) of the Rome Statute as “a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts [enumerated in Article 7(1)] against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a state or organizational policy to commit such attack”. The reference to “the multiple commission of acts” in Article 7(2)(a) indicates that an attack may consist of either the repeated commission of the same type of act, or the commission of different types of acts, such as murder, rape and deportation.
The mistreatment of civilians in North Korea by the governmental officials appears to meet the definition of the “attack” within the meaning of Article 7 of the Rome Statute.It consists of violent acts, for example, killings and torture of political prisoners, and non-violent acts. The course of conduct involves the multiple commission of underlying acts which consists of repeated commission of the same type of acts, for example, torture, and the commission of different types of acts, such as murder, torture, arbitrary detention, persecution, enforced disappearance, sexual offences and other inhumane acts. The mistreatment of civilians seems to be carried out pursuant to or in furtherance of a state policy to commit the attack against the civilian population.
b.) Widespread or systematic
The attack must be widespread or systematic, but need not be both. This does not mean the accused must themselves have acted in a widespread or systematic manner; only the attack, not the individual acts of the accused, must be widespread or systematic. Therefore, the commission ofa single act, such as one murder, in the context of a broader campaign against the civilian population, can constitute a crime agianst humanity.
The attack in North Korea seems to meet the standards of being both widespread and systematic. The attack on political groups, political opponents, all those who have expressed dissent, religious groups and official who are perceived as a threat to the regime appear to be large-scale in nature and directed against a multiplicity of victims. The information also indicates patterns of crimes which seem to be carried out on a regular basis and in an organised manner.