How do court trials work in North Korea? By Nina Shen Rastogi
Two American journalists arrested near the North Korean border will go on trial in Pyongyang next month, according to an official news agency. How does a trial work in North Korea?
It's hard to know--very few, if any, outsiders have ever seen the North Korean legal system in action. The country has never held an official trial for a foreigner, at least as far as anyone outside the country knows: Past American detainees--such as Evan Hunziker, the Christian missionary who swam to North Korea from China in 1996--have been held without legal proceedings. (Hunziker was released after several months in custody and committed suicide soon thereafter.)
`Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'
-- The Red Queen
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
We do have some basic understanding about how the North Korean justice system is organized. The journalists will be tried by the Central Court, the nation's highest judicial body. Usually, the Central Court only hears appeals cases from the lower, provincial courts, but for grievous cases against the state, it has initial jurisdiction. The Central Court is staffed by judges elected by the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's one-party parliament. The North Korean Constitution stipulates that each trial is to be conducted by one judge and two "people's assessors"--i.e., lay judges--though special cases may be heard by a three-judge panel. (Appeals cases usually get the panel.) Legal education or experience is not an official prerequisite for becoming a judge, and rulings from the Central Court are not subject to appeal.
North Korean law does recognize the right of the accused to defend herself and to be represented by an attorney. According to the country's penal code, either the defendant, her family, or her "organizational representatives" may select the defense attorney. As the two arrested journalists were not allowed access to any counsel during pretrial investigation, however, there are doubts that they will actually be allowed to select their own counsel. According to the U.S. State Department, there is "no indication that independent, nongovernmental defense lawyers [exist]" in North Korea in the first place.
The proceedings will be conducted in Korean, but the North Korean Constitution does grant foreign citizens the right to use their own languages during court proceedings. Trials are supposed to be open to the public, unless they might expose state secrets or otherwise have a negative effect on society. According to testimony from North Korean defectors, though, trials are often closed in practice. Announcements of the court's findings and executions of sentences are often carried out in public as a means of educating the citizenry.
Thursday's announcement from North Korea's news agency did not specify what crime the two journalists are being charged with, though Pyongyang has previously accused them of "hostile acts" and illegal entry into the country. If they were prosecuted under a law regarding foreigners who "abuse" or "provoke national difficulty in order to antagonize" the North Korean people, they would face five to 10 years of "re-education" in a labor camp. Illegal entry carries a sentence of two to three years.
But these are not traditional North Korean kidnappings off the beaches of Japan. These two have connections, however tenous, to the president of the United States, and the kidnapping was witness and reported. After the show trial these two cannot be simply disappeared into the prison camps to live or die as Fate chooses. And they'd report on what they saw there when they got out.
Previously, prisoners could be sentenced to death for a number of vague crimes, such as "ideological divergence" or "opposing socialism." But subsequent to the enactment of a new penal code in 2004, the death penalty is reserved for four crimes: participating in a coup or a plot to overthrow the state, terrorism, treason, or "suppressing the people's movement for national liberation." In practice these four crimes seem to cover a wide range of activities, including, in one reported case from 2007, the making of international phone calls. Judicial proceedings are apparently not required for executions to be carried out.
Posted by: Steve White ||
05/16/2009 00:00 ||
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prisoners could be sentenced to death for a number of vague crimes, such as "ideological divergence" or "opposing socialism."
Good thing I wasn't in North Korea before 2004. I definitely oppose socialism, and I suppose my ideology diverges from Dear Leader's.
Posted by: Rambler in Virginia ||
05/16/2009 0:59 Comments ||
Kimmie's paradise makes the Stalinist 1950s look like the good ole days.
I wouldn't want to be standing under one of them ...
April 5th 2009, North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile, considered by many Western countries as a provocative act. In this report from Washington we look at whether the missile poses a threat to the United States and other countries.
The North Korean missile is called the Taepodong-2. Analysts say little is known about it. They say theoretically the three-stage rocket has a range of between 3,600 and 4,300 kilometers, making it capable of reaching the western United States.
North Korea described the April test as a success, saying the missile launched a communications satellite into orbit. However Western officials said it was a failure, with the last two stages falling far short of Pyongyang's expectations.
Continued on Page 49
Posted by: Steve White ||
05/16/2009 00:00 ||
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they first built a nuclear weapon and then it was years and years and years before they were able to mount one on a missile,
Nonsense. The Chinese did this in two years.
All the work has already been done by the Chinese. The Norks have only to copy and update the design.
The Libyans handed over blueprints for a nuclear missile warhead that they got from AQ Khan. He got this from the Chinese. These blueprints were still wrapped in a plastic bag from AQ Khan dry cleaners in Karachi. There were detailed notes in Chinese and Urdu describing the machining of parts, how much torque to use on bolts, what adhesives to use etc.
The design from Libya was the warhead tested in the 4th Chinese nuclear test - carried by a DF2 ballistic missile.
Posted by: john frum ||
05/16/2009 8:35 Comments ||
Incoming long-range ballistic missiles are quite annoying even when armed only with conventional warheads.
I continue to be astounded by how much Mr. Obama reminds me in his first few months of George W. Bush in his first few years. There is a sense with both men that they always pushed too hard, were always revolutionizing and doing "the work of generations," as Mr. Bush put it. They appear to share an insensitivity to the delicacy of even so great a nation as ours, an inability to see limits, and to know at a certain point that what you do with a nation becomes what you do to it.
Dear Ms. Noonan never forgave George W. for not being his father, her hero Ronald Reagan being in her view too lofty a goal for any mere mortal not already him. She equally loathed John McCain for defending George W's policies, and grew breathless at the thought of Barack Obama's ascendance. But it seems she has now caught her breath. Here's another taste, then go read the whole thing. :-)
The other day I was watching "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, and Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, came on from Washington to talk about health care. A reporter on the set, Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, asked a few clear and direct questions: What is President Obama's health-care plan, how would it work, what would it look like? I leaned forward. Finally I will understand. Ms. Sebelius began to answer in that dead and deadening governmental language that does not reveal or clarify but instead wraps legitimate queries in clouds of words and sends them on their way. I think I heard "accessing affordable quality health care," "single payer plan vis-à-vis private multiparty insurers" and "key component of quality improvement." In any case, she didn't answer the question, which was a disappointment but not a surprise. No one answers the question anymore.
As she spoke, I attempted a sort of simultaneous translation, which is what most of us do now when we hear our political figures, translate from their language to ours. "Access health care" must mean "go to the doctor." But I gave up. Then a thought crossed my mind: Maybe we're supposed to give up! Maybe we're supposed to be struck dumb, hypnotized by words and phrases that are aimed not at making things clearer but making them more obscure and impenetrable. Maybe we're not supposed to understand.
I shouldn't pick too hard on Ms. Sebelius specifically. Most people in the administration, and many in government, speak as she speaks, and have for many years. In her case there's reason to believe it's a quirk. A New York Times profile recently had her recalling with self-deprecating charm the time her child ran a high fever and she caused a bit of confusion by forgetting to say, "We have to go to the hospital!" and announcing instead, "This unsustainable increase in body temperature requires immediate access to a local quality health-care facility!" I made that up, but it was believable, wasn't it?
But back to language. Lately it is as if the American government, having decided in its programs, assumptions and philosophy to become more European, has at the same time decided it would be amusing to speak to the American people only in French.
Which would give rise to a simple and wholly understandable suspicion that the government doesn't speak clearly about what it's doing for the reason that they know that if people fully understood they would say, "Oh that's not a good idea," or, "The cost of that will kill us."
One wonders what is now being said at the Washington dinner parties Ms. Noonan so adores being invited to.
I assume someone else submitted the same article at the same time, SteveS, and Fred's clever programming caught it. I certainly didn't put it there. I'm still a total newbie at this moderator stuff -- everybody has been so well behaved that my cluebat is still in the original cellophane wrapper with the pretty periwinkle ribbons, and the only spam I've removed has been in the O Club.
What is referred to today as Palestine is a creation of the repeated failure of the Arab states to destroy Israel in in 1948 and 1967. When those who owned and operated the lands now associated with the various factions commonly referred to as Palestinians up till 1967 finally figured out that they could not budge Israel off of land they lost in their failed wars of annihilation, they simply declared said lands to suddenly be entitled to self rule they failed to grant them while under their tutelage. The non-Syrian, non-Jordanian, non-Egyptians, non-Lebanese [as they were never really integrated into the world of their previous occupiers] become willing pawns both in the regional conflict as well as the greater international conflict of the times. Let's remember the 1948 date because just a couple years before hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Germans from 'ancestral' lands now owned and operated by the Russians, Poles, and Czechs were all made displaced persons, refugees, and no one cares. That's the price of losing a war. Unlike those tagged as Palestinians, there were places that integrated those Germans into the main stream of society rather than segregate and isolate them.
Sorry, Frank - he beat you to the punch.
President Obama's endorsements of Bush-Cheney antiterror policies are by now routine: for example, opposing the release of prisoner abuse photographs and support for indefinite detention for some detainees, and that's just this week. More remarkable is White House creativity in portraying these U-turns as epic change. Witness yesterday's announcement endorsing military commissions.
White House officials insist that their tribunals will be kinder and gentler, stressing additional due-process safeguards for terrorists on trial for war crimes. But the debate that has convulsed the political system since 9/11 isn't about procedural nuances. It has been over core principles, with Democrats decrying a "shadow justice system" and claiming that "Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists."
The latter quote is from a speech by Senator Obama in 2007 denouncing "a legal framework that does not work." He also referred to the civilian criminal justice system and courts martial that Democrats then claimed, and many still claim, are the right venues for antiterror prosecutions. After the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision gave terrorists habeas rights, Mr. Obama again laid into the Bush Administration's "legal black hole" and "dangerously flawed legal approach," which "undermines the very values we are fighting to defend."
At least some people in the White House must now be embarrassed by their boss's switcheroo, though you can't tell from Friday's declaration. Part of the tribunal face-lift is that "the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel." Say what? Enemy combatants already have better access to attorneys -- white shoe and pro bono, no less -- than nearly every criminal defendant in America. Perhaps this means Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 90 Yemenis and the rest will now be able to choose lawyers from both Shearman & Sterling and Covington & Burling, instead of one or the other.
Another red herring is supposedly tightening the admissibility of hearsay evidence. Tribunal judges already have discretion to limit such evidence, and the current rules are nearly indistinguishable from those of the International Criminal Court. The sensible exceptions involve evidence obtained under combat conditions or from foreign intelligence services, which are left untouched by Mr. Obama's nips and tucks.
In any event, Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that the civilian courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favored by Dick Cheney -- and which, contrary to the narrative that Democrats promulgated for years, will be the fairest and most open war-crimes trials in U.S. history. Meanwhile, friends should keep certain newspaper editors away from sharp objects. Their champion has repudiated them once again
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.