NORTH Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, has been warned that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity after a United Nations inquiry accused him of some of the worst human rights abuses since the Second World War.
In some of the harshest criticism ever unleashed by the international community against the Pyongyang regime, a UN panel branded it "a shock to the conscience of humanity".
Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who has spent a year taking testimony from victims of the regime, said much of it reminded him of atrocities perpetrated by Nazi Germany and Pol Pot's Cambodia.
Yesterday his team published a 374-page report detailing allegations of murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement, and starvation, describing North Korea as a dictatorship "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world".
Mr Kirby has taken the unusual step of writing to the North Korean leader to warn him that both he and hundreds of his henchmen could one day face prosecution.
"We told him that we would find evidence of crimes against humanity on the part of officials in North Korea," Mr Kirby said. "We indicated that he should be aware of this, and of the crime of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, even if he is not himself involved, and that he himself may be responsible and face prosecution."
The commission of inquiry was set up last March by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to "investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea".
It came after a decade of fruitless efforts by UN human rights workers to establish a dialogue with Pyongyang, which denounced the inquiry panel as "human scum".
Instead, the panel took testimony from more than 80 former North Koreans now living abroad, including ex-prison guards. Among them was Shin Dong-hyuk, whose tale of his life and escape from a prison camp is now the best-selling book 'Escape from Camp 14'.
Some 240 others also gave evidence in secret, while evidence about secret concentration camps was backed up by satellite photographs.
But he said his intentions were partly to "galvanise" the wider world, and to prevent foreign leaders ever claiming ignorance of the scale of the abuses, as some did after the discovery of Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II.
Some of reports from North Korea's prison camps, which hold around 100,000 people, bore "striking" likenesses to the horrors of Germany's Third Reich, Mr Kirby told a news conference in Geneva.
He cited grisly accounts of inmates being starved to death and then being disposed of in pots, burned and buried by other prisoners. "It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them," he said.
He added: "At the end of the Second World War, so many people said if only we had know the wrongs that were done. Now the international community does know." (© Daily Telegraph, London)