AFTER 50 YEARS OF SUFFERING: TRIBUNAL FINDS U.S. GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES IN KOREA
Koreans From North and South Present Evidence
Images from Tribunal Testimony: a photo album
Four minute video clip [longer version in production]
By John Catalinotto
June 27, 2003--Fifty years of enforced silence were broken on June 23 when Korean victims of U.S. war crimes finally had the chance to tell an International War Crimes Tribunal about what had happened to them.
Some 600 people attended the historic gathering at the Interchurch Center of Riverside Church. Large delegations of Koreans came from South Korea, Japan, Canada and Germany, as well as from all over the U.S. Most evidence was presented in Korean and English to the multinational audience.
The U.S. State Department had refused visas to a delegation of 11 lawyers bringing evidence from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The South Korean government had barred some witnesses from boarding planes to the U.S., sparking protests in Seoul.
Tribunal organizers saw this as proof that both Washington and Seoul fear the impact of the truth about the U.S.'s colonial relationship with Korea.
The testimony of victims from North Korea was presented via videotape.
Listening intently to the evidence were over two dozen jurists from 17 countries. Twelve of these countries participated in the 1950-1953 war against Korea. After four sessions of deliberating over the testimony, this jury unanimously found the U.S. government and military guilty of 19 counts of war crimes committed against Korea from 1945 until 2001.
KOREA TRUTH COMMISSION FORMED AFTER NO GUN RI EXPOSE
The tribunal was the culmination of over a year's work by the Korea Truth Commission, which had been formed after the exposure of U.S. atrocities against Korean civilians at No Gun Ri during the Korean War.
The KTC enlisted the aid in the U.S. of the International Action Center and Veterans for Peace, and the cooperation of many other organizations internationally. Yoomi Jeong of the KTC and Sara Flounders of the IAC co-chaired the tribunal.
Former South Korean Supreme Court Justice Byun Jung Soo and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark--who drafted the original indictment against the U.S. at the KTC request-- were the chief prosecutors.
Opening the prosecution, Byun noted that "U.S. crimes have been suppressed and covered up" and should be revealed in detail. People from North and South Korea have come together in the tribunal movement, he said. They hope the tribunal work will serve as an example for those who want the reunification of the two Koreas.
Clark pointed out that the U.S. military went into Korea in September 1945 to "stop Soviet troops and they divided the Korean people in half, putting into power a military government in the south that used brutal means to eliminate every form of sympathy with Koreans in the north."
When war broke out in 1950, the U.S. declared North Korea "Indian Territory," Clark said. This was a racist term meaning a free-fire zone. The invading troops killed 3.5 million civilians in three years. Washington has kept up the "torture of economic sanctions" since.
Clark explained the KTC's decision to focus not only on the U.S. slaughter of civilians during the 1950-1953 Korean War, but also on the periods that preceded and followed it: first, the repression and murder of leftists from 1945 to 1950, and later the U.S. occupation of the south and economic sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north following the 1953 truce.
1945-1950: CRIMES AGAINST PEACE
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, legal representative of the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, presented the prosecution's brief for the 1945 to 1950 period. She instructed the jury that during this period the U.S. committed "crimes against peace," which were defined at Nuremberg as the most serious of all war crimes.
As an example of the political persecution and outright slaughter by the U.S.-backed military regime in the south during this period, the tribunal heard the testimony of witness Lee Do Young regarding the massacre of a quarter of the population of Cheju Island after an uprising in the spring of 1948. The island lies off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula.
Lee said he was still frightened that the regime might punish him for presenting his testimony. Indeed, Seoul stopped some of the Cheju witnesses from coming to the tribunal.
Lee's own father, who had worked for the rural government, was killed later, in August 1950, for alleged participation in the uprising on the island. His story brought up an additional aspect--the U.S.-backed slaughter of hundreds of thousands of leftists and activists in South Korea in the summer of 1950.
Lee said he found one person who confessed to executing his father, but that person's superior officer denied it.
WAR CRIMES IN SOUTH KOREA
Prosecutor Shim Jae Hwan spoke on behalf of those Koreans killed by the U.S. military in South Korea. "The U.S. brought in massive military force and killed innocent people, brutalized women, young and old," Shim said. "The U.S. must admit its crimes, apologize for them and compensate the Korean people."
A half-dozen witnesses from South Korea then came forward to describe U.S. atrocities. Their stories, which they had been unable to tell for 50 years, caused many in the audience to weep. Any criticism of the U.S. was interpreted as sympathy with the DPRK and was punishable under the National Security Law, so they had had to swallow their suffering in silence.
One witness told of a pond near his home village. When drained, it yielded five truckloads of bodies. Outside the auditorium were exhibits showing the location and details of this and other atrocities. He said that some 3,500 people were killed in his area.
Kang Soo Jo, who had been a young girl when she lost her mother to the war, told of being shot in the leg. She showed her mangled leg and foot to the audience. In fury she demanded the U.S. either "return things to the way they were before or give compensation for my suffering."
A man from a northern province of South Korea told of being bombed non-stop by U.S. B-29s. "We raised South Korean flags to say hello, but were surprised by bombs. I lost my mother and father. Fifty-nine people were killed in that attack," he said, out of 450 people killed altogether in the village and environs.
U.S. officials claimed what happened was an error, he said, but then bombed again for 40 minutes a few days later.
An "error," was made, another survivor said, when U.S. planes bombed and machine-gunned a boat carrying refugees and flying the South Korean flag. Some "150 people were killed in the bombing. Others were shot on the stairwell trying to leave the boat."
That U.S. commanders considered these to be "errors" only means that the attacks were meant for civilians who might be sympathetic to the north. Either way, attacks on civilians are war crimes.
WAR CRIMES IN NORTH KOREA
Attorney Lennox Hinds, the permanent representative to the United Nations of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, led the prosecution's presentation on civilian massacres in the north. He also raised the U.S. use of biological and chemical warfare.
Hinds introduced into evidence a study made in 1952 by an eight-member delegation from his organization at the invitation of the DPRK. This IADL study showed evidence of mass murders, massacres and other atrocities that violated Article 16 and Article 6A of the Nuremburg Laws, said Hinds.
It also showed that the U.S. used weapons banned by the articles of war, including bacteriological and chemical weapons. U.S. planes had dropped canisters containing flies and other insects infected with plague, cholera and other epidemic diseases. A letter was then read to the tribunal from Stephen Endicott, whose research into declassified documents appears in the book "The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea."
Expert witness Anne Katrin-Becker of Germany told of U.S.- led massacres that killed one-fourth of the population of Sinchon province--35,383 people--mostly elderly people, non- combatant women and children. In October 1950, U.S. troops forced 900 people into a building and burned it to death, and in another area 1,000 women were drowned.
In a video the KTC made earlier this spring in North Korea, survivors testified of U.S. atrocities carried out against their villages and loved ones. The crimes were similar to those in the south, but with no pretense of "error."
Former U.S. bomber pilot Charles Overby confessed to his own role in dropping 40 bombs each run, each with 500 pounds of TNT, on the population of North Korea.
1953-2001: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
The fourth prosecutor, Kim Seung Kyo, addressed crimes against humanity committed from 1953 to 2001, including political repression, military dictatorship, U.S. troop occupation, the infamous National Security Law that led to charges against a million South Koreans, the torture of political prisoners, the massacre after the 1980 Kwangju uprising, and U.S. Air Force bombing practice at Maehyang- ri.
Ismael Guadalupe of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques testified on the U.S. Navy's use of his island as a bombing practice range and expressed his solidarity with the Koreans at Maehyang-ri. The work of the tribunal has furthered Korean-Puerto Rican solidarity.
Other presentations included IAC West Coast coordinator Gloria La Riva on the struggle of the Daewoo workers, Sandra Smith from Canada on the deprivations caused by sanctions, and former German Admiral Elmar Schmaehling on U.S. plans for a National Missile Defense.
The tribunal showed cooperation between North and South Korean organizations, as well as solidarity of the U.S. anti- war movement with the Korean Truth Commission, which is rooted in mass organizations in South Korea.
KTC Secretary General Rev. Kiyul Chung, Brian Willson of Veterans for Peace and Brian Becker of the IAC ended the presentations with political analyses of the tribunal and a call for continued activity by all the participants to help get U.S. troops out of Korea and allow the Koreans to reunify their country.
AFTER HEARING THE EVIDENCE, INTERNATIONAL PANEL OF JURISTS SAYS "GUILTY"
The Members of the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal, meeting in New York, having considered the Indictment for Offenses Committed by the Government of the United States of America Against the People of Korea, 1945-2001, which charges all U.S. Presidents, all Secretaries of State, all Secretaries of Defense, all Secretaries of the armed services, all Chiefs of Staff, all heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. foreign intelligence agencies, all Directors of the National Security Agency, all National Security Advisors, all U.S. military commanders in Korea and commanders of units which participated in war crimes, over the period from 1945 to the present, with nineteen separate War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Crimes Against Humanity in violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the 1929 and 1949 Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, other international agreements and customary international law, the laws of the United States, the laws of Korea and the laws of other nations that have been forced to provide bases, support and military personnel for United States actions against Korea;
having the right and obligation as citizens of the world to sit in judgment regarding violations of international humanitarian law;
having heard the testimony from various hearings of the Korea Truth Commission held over the past year and having received evidence from various other Commission hearings which recite the evidence there gathered;
having been provided with documentary evidence, eyewitness testimonies, photos, videotapes, special reports, expert analyses and summaries of evidence available to the Korea Truth Commission;
having access to all evidence, knowledge and expert opinion in the Commission files or available to the Commission staff;
having considered the Report from the Korean Truth Commission (South) on U.S. War Crimes During the Korean War, providing eyewitness accounts by survi vors of massacres of civilians in farming villages in southern Korea by U.S. military forces during the 1950-53 war;
having considered the Report from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on U.S. War Crimes During the Korean War, prepared by the Investigation Committee of the National Front for Democratic Reunification, providing details on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the north by the U.S. from June to December 1950;
having been provided by the Commission, or otherwise obtained, various books, articles and other written materials on various aspects of events and conditions in Korea, and in the military and arms establishments;
having heard the presentations of the Korea Truth Commission in public hearing on June 23, 2001, and the testimony, evidence and summaries there presented;
having considered the testimonies of those Koreans denied visas to personally attend the hearings by the governments of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK), but presented in the form of videotaped interviews and documents;
having been informed that the Korea Truth Commission gave ample opportunity to U.S. government defendants to attend and present evidence in their defense, which up to the moment of this verdict they have been unable or unwilling to do;
and having met, considered and deliberated with each other and with Commission staff and having considered all the evidence that is relevant to the nineteen charges of criminal conduct alleged in the Initial Complaint, make the following findings:
The Members of the International War Crimes Tribunal find the accused Guilty on the basis of the evidence against them: each of the nineteen separate crimes alleged in the Initial Complaint has been established to have been committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The Members find these crimes to have occurred during three main periods in the U.S. intervention in and occupation of Korea.
The best-known period is from June 25, 1950, until July 27, 1953, the "Korean War," when over 4.6 million Koreans perished, according to conservative Western estimates, including 3 million civilians in the north and 500,000 civilians in the south. The evidence of U.S. war crimes presented to this Tribunal included eyewitness testimony and documentary accounts of massacres of thousands of civilians in southern Korea by U.S. military forces during the war. Abundant evidence was also presented concerning criminal and even genocidal U.S. conduct in northern Korea, including the systematic leveling of most buildings and dwellings by U.S. artillery and aerial bombardment; widespread atrocities committed by U.S. and R.O.K. forces against civilians and prisoners of war; the deliberate destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic production; and the use of illegal weapons and biological and chemical warfare by the U.S. against the people and the environment of northern Korea. Documentary and eyewitness evidence was also presented showing gross and systematic violence committed against women in northern and southern Korea, characterized by mass rapes, sexual assaults and murders.
Less known but of crucial importance in understanding the war period is the preceding five years, from the landing of U.S. troops in Korea on September 8, 1945, to the outbreak of the war. The Members of the Tribunal examined extensive evidence of U.S. crimes against peace and crimes against humanity in this period. The Members conclude that the U.S. government acted to divide Korea against the will of the vast majority of the people, limit its sovereignty, create a police state in southern Korea using many former collaborators with Japanese rule, and provoke tension and threats between southern and northern Korea, opposing and disrupting any plans for peaceful reunification. In this period the U.S. trained, directed and supported the ROK in systematic murder, imprisonment, torture, surveillance, harassment and violations of human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, especially of those individuals or groups considered nationalists, leftists, peasants seeking land reform, union organizers and/or those sympathetic to the north.
The Members find that in the period from July 1953 to the present, the U.S. has continued to maintain a powerful military force in southern Korea, backed by nuclear weapons, in violation of international law and intended to obstruct the will of the Korean people for reunification. Military occupation has been accompanied by the organized sexual exploitation of Korean women, frequently leading to violence and even murder of women by U.S. soldiers who have felt above the law. U.S.-imposed economic sanctions have impoverished and debilitated the people of northern Korea, leading to a reduction of life expectancy, widespread malnutrition and even starvation in a country that once exported food. The refusal of the U.S. government to grant visas to a delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea who planned to attend this Tribunal only confirms the criminal intent of the defendants to isolate those whom they have abused to prevent them from telling their story to the world.
In all these 55 years, the U.S. government has systematically manipulated, controlled, directed, misinformed and restricted press and media coverage to obtain consistent support for its military intervention, occupation and crimes against the people of Korea. It has also inculcated racist attitudes within the U.S. troops and general population that prepared them to commit and/or accept atrocities and genocidal policies against the Korean people.
It has violated the Constitution of the United States, the delegation of powers over war and the military, the Bill of Rights, the UN Charter, international law and the laws of the ROK, DPRK, People's Republic of China, Japan and many others, in its lawless determination to exercise its will over the Korean peninsula.
The Members of the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal hold the United States government and its leaders accountable for these criminal acts and condemn those found guilty in the strongest possible terms.
The Members call for the immediate end of U.S. occupation of all Korean territory, the removal of all U.S. bases, forces and materiel, including land mines, from the region, the rectification of environmental damage, and the cessation of overt and covert operations against northern Korea.
The Members urge the immediate revocation of all embargoes, sanctions and penalties against northern Korea because they constitute a continuing crime against humanity.
The Members call for emergency funds to be provided to the people of northern Korea through the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to feed the hungry and care for the sick, whose suffering is a direct result of U.S. policies.
The Members call for reparations to be paid by the U.S. government to all of Korea to compensate for the damage inflicted by 55 years of violence and economic warfare.
The Members further call for an immediate end to all interference by the U.S. aimed at preventing the people of Korea from reunifying as they choose.
The Members call for the U.S. government to make full disclosure of all information about U.S. crimes and wrongful acts committed in Korea since September 7, 1945.
The Members urge the Commission to provide for the permanent preservation of the reports, evidence and materials gathered to make them available to others, and to seek ways to provide the widest possible distribution of the truth about U.S. crimes in Korea.
We urge all people of the world to act on recommendations developed by the Commission to hold power accountable and to secure social justice on which lasting peace must be based.
Done in New York this 23rd day of June, 2001
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General; Joint Chief Prosecutor for Tribunal
Byun Jung Soo, former Korea Supreme Court Justice; Joint Chief Prosecutor for Tribunal
Lennox Hinds, U.S., UN Permanent Representative, International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, U.S., Legal Representative, Partnership for Civil Justice
Shim Jae Hwan, South Korean Legal Team for the Korea Truth Commission
Kim Seung Kyo, South Korean Legal Team for the Korea Truth Commission
THE CHIEF JURISTS
Jitendra Sharma, India, former Supreme Court Justice
Brian Willson, U.S., lawyer and Vietnam Veteran
Malcolm Cannon, Australia, lifelong peace and anti-war activist
Miche Doumen, Belgium, spokesperson for Solidarity International
Sandra Smith, Canada, People's Front
Judi Cheng, Chinese American activist; graduate student at Hunter College School for Health Science
Gustavo Torrez, Colombia, human rights activist and Executive Director, Casa de Maryland
Guy Dupre, France, President, International Liaison Committee for Peace and Reunification of Korea
Hugo Bernard, France, former Senator, French National Assembly
Wolfgang Richter, Germany, President of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity, e.v. GBM
Benjamin Dupuy, Haiti, former Haitian Ambassador to U.S. & UN
Hari P. Sharma, India, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Simon Fraser University
Oh Jong Ryul, Korea, National President, National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification of Korea (prevented from leaving South Korea by Seoul government)
Yun Young Moo, Korea, former Korean Independence fighter; lifelong reunification activist
Catherine Dujon, Luxemburg, International Section, Anti-Imperialist League
Ben Fama, Netherlands, son of Dutch Korean War veteran who opposed the war
Margaret Sanner, Norway, Women's Front of Norway
Edre Olalia, Philippines, Legal Consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel
Arnedo Valera, Philippines, Legal Consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel
Berta Joubert-Ceci, Puerto Rico, Vieques activist; National People's Campaign
Jorge Farinacci, Puerto Rico, Senior Legal Council to the Puerto Rican labor movement
Gail Coulson, South Africa, Executive Secretary, Asia Pacific Desk, General Board of Global Ministries, UMC
Dundak Gurses, Turkey, lawyer, International Association of People's Lawyers
Charles Overby, U.S., professor, University of Ohio; author; retired U.S. Air Force pilot
Deirdre Griswold, U.S., Editor, Workers World newspaper; Secretariat member of 1967 Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal
Felton May, U.S., Resident Bishop at Baltimore-Washington Conference of United Methodist Church
Karen Talbot, U.S., Journalist; President, International Center for Peace and Justice
Wilson Powell, U.S. Korean War veteran
Milos Raickovich, Yugoslavia, internationally renowned composer
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