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Kim Jong Il, you're under arrest

Concerned citizens want the notorious leader of North Korea tried at the ICC. Are they on the right track? Or, are they only dreaming?

The ICC can only prosecute someone who is a citizen of, or has committed a crime in, a member state. — which North Korea is not. A state can voluntarily accept the court's jurisdiction, but as long as the Kim dynasty rules, the chances are almost nonexistent.

An exception is if the U.N. Security Council unanimously orders an investigation, as with President Bashir of Sudan. But with North Korea's ally China holding a Security Council veto, the odds of that happening to Kim Jong Il are slim. And even Bashir will not be arrested unless he leaves the country or the Sudanese government gives him up.

“It’s most likely a symbolic movement,” Park Ki-gab, a law professor at Korea University, said. Given the issue of jurisdiction with North Korea, Park believes the Security Council is still the committee’s best bet.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted in November a human rights resolution sponsored by the U.S. voicing concern about detention and torture among other human rights abuses in North Korea. But for an ICC investigation, the issue would need unanimous approval from the Security Council.

“With China there, do you think it’s going to be at all possible?” Park said. The stalled nuclear talks with Pyongyang is also not a favorable condition for the activists. Addressing human rights issues could potentially cause the North to cut itself off from the international community instead of engaging in dialogue for denuclearization. “It’s a different world when you’re talking legal issues and politics,” the professor said.

Do is more optimistic. In the recent meeting with officials from the ICC, he said, the group was told as long as there is concrete evidence of abuses that the court’s prosecutors will review their case.

The activist said his committee has more than 100 witnesses ready to talk to prosecutors if necessary.

“If the court starts to at least look into the issue, Kim Jong Il will start realizing that he can face consequences,” Do said. “There are also people within North Korea that are against the leadership. We’re trying to send them a message.”