The International Criminal Court started a preliminary war-crimes investigation following North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island last month and the sinking of a South Korean warship earlier this year.
After receiving communications alleging that North Korean forces committed war crimes in the territory of South Korea, the prosecutor will evaluate whether the incidents fall under the jurisdiction of the court, according to a statement by the Hague-based ICC.
The statement referred to the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, allegedly hit by a torpedo from a North Korean submarine on March 26, killing 46 people and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on the Nov. 23, leading to the death of two South Korean marines and two civilians.
Tensions have risen on the Korean peninsula since North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong island. South Korea’s military began live-firing drills off its coastline this week, prompting North Korea to issue the warning that the South risked “catastrophic consequences” with its plans.
South Korea today welcomed the ICC’s decision and will fully cooperate with the investigation, a foreign ministry official said in Seoul. The South Korean government didn’t raise the case with the court, the official said, who declined to be identified, citing government policy.
Nicola Fletcher, spokeswoman of the Office of the ICC’s Prosecutor, wasn’t available for comment.
Established under the 1998 Rome Statute, a treaty signed by representatives of 106 states during a UN conference, the ICC is the only permanent tribunal for prosecuting individuals responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world. Other preliminary examinations include Afghanistan and Ivory Coast.
South Korea and North Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 war ended in a cease-fire, which was never replaced by a peace treaty. The shelling of Yeonpyeong, near their western maritime border, was the first such attack on South Korean soil since the war.
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