The People’s Tribunal on North Korea is being established to investigate and attribute responsibility for transnational gender-based and sexual violence perpetrated against North Korean women and girls; to establish institutional and personal accountability for human rights violations perpetrated against all citizens of North Korea, in particular where they amount to crimes against humanity; and to investigate additional, under-reported, and global violations of human rights perpetrated against North Korean citizens.
The case for a Tribunal is threefold.
First, that transnational acts of gender-based and sexual violence have and continue to explicitly target North Korean women and girls, and that such crimes remain under-documented, under-reported, and committed with impunity. Second, that there exists a significant, yet little engaged or understood, body of evidence concerning the culpability of individuals and institutions responsible for human rights violations in North Korea. Third, that North Korean survivors of human rights violations have yet to obtain any form of legal or moral justice.
Significantly, the Tribunal will sit at a time when these most egregious international crimes are increasingly overshadowed by regional insecurity and potential conflict borne from Government of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. In view of this increased militarism on the Korean peninsula, the Tribunal will act as a witness to the growing importance of survivors and civil society to international law, particularly in the realm of gender-based and sexual violence, and their ability to exercise moral authority to demonstrate that justice can be both a protector and tool of the people — the very essence of meaningful justice.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this initiative is being led by exiled North Korean individuals and organisations — many of whom have felt alienated by past efforts and advocacy conducted by outside actors on their behalf. More than empowerment or inclusion, their leadership will ensure that the historical record is not only enhanced by the weight of their experiences, but also by their refusal to suffer in silence.