The International Criminal Court has 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 today 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 South Korean marines and civilians.
Nicola Fletcher, spokeswoman of the Office of the ICC’s Prosecutor, wasn’t immediately available for comment.
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, prompting North Korea to issue the warning that the South risked “catastrophic consequences” with its plans.
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.