Michael Kirby, “North Korea and our Dilemma”

“North Korea and our Dilemma: How to Secure Accountability for Crimes Against Humanity by a Recalcitrant Nuclear State?”

Michael Kirby was a Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996-2009), the nation’s highest appellate and constitutional Court. In 2013-14 he served as chair of the Commission of Inquiry of the UN Human Rights Council investigating crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The commission found grave and long-standing crimes against humanity and called for referral of its report to the Security Council of the United Nations. That body has the power to refer matters to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. He warned the Supreme Leader of North Korea that, under international law, he was potentially personally accountable for failing to use his power to prevent and redress such crimes. Although the commission’s report was duly sent to the Security Council by the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, so far the Security Council as failed to enliven the jurisdiction of the ICC. In recent weeks, the Council has imposed new and stronger sanctions against North Korea following the conduct of a fourth nuclear weapons test and missile tests. The report of the commission has been widely praised for its powerful description of great wrongs. But how do we move beyond another UN report into effective subjection of this dangerous state and its leadership to compulsory accountability before an international tribunal responding to the deep concerns of humanity? The speaker will outline our dilemma. He will also answer questions and suggest possible future developments.

The Ulysses and Marguerite Schwartz Memorial Lectureship at the University of Chicago Law School is held by a distinguished lawyer or teacher whose experience is in the academic field or practice of public service.

Presented on March 29, 2016, at the University of Chicago Law School.

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