Tak­ing notes

For the test to come

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

WIN­STON Churchill wrote that at the Tehran Con­fer­ence in 1943, the Big Three pow­ers dis­cussed the pur­suit of jus­tice in the post-war days. How would the Ger­man com­mand—mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal—be pun­ished?

Mar­shall Stalin pro­posed ex­e­cut­ing 50,000 to 100,000 Ger­man of­fi­cers.

The prime min­is­ter was stunned. He turned to the pres­i­dent. So FDR joked: Maybe we could get away with only 49,000.

Churchill had to be wooed back to din­ner by no less than Un­cle Joe him­self, who in­sisted he was kid­ding. But who knows? Churchill claims Stalin’s pro­posal was, at first, dead se­ri­ous. Em­pha­sis on dead.

Yes, the Al­lies were plan­ning for post-war tri­als be­fore D-Day, even be­fore Rome fell. By the time the Ger­mans fi­nally laid down their arms, the Al­lied lawyers were al­ready pre­par­ing briefs.

These days, the world has an­other gang of fa­nat­ics con­trol­ling a coun­try. And one day will surely find jus­tice, too, as much as they’d like to avoid it. The world is tak­ing notes. And pre­par­ing briefs.

There’s an out­fit op­er­at­ing out of Seoul, South Korea, called Tran­si­tional Jus­tice Work­ing Group, and it’s funded by the Na­tional En­dow­ment for Democ­racy and helped along by all kinds of do-gooder types. It has is­sued a new re­port, called the Map­ping Project, which iden­ti­fies lo­ca­tions in North Korea of killing fields and mass burial sites, and col­lects doc­u­ments and eye-wit­ness tes­ti­mony about the go­ings-on in the Her­mit King­dom. One day, be­fore a tri­bunal, this ev­i­dence might be nec­es­sary.

The re­port is ba­sic lawyer- and en­gi­neer-talk about Google Earth, maps, pris­ons and ceme­ter­ies. Un­til it gets to tes­ti­mony. Then it gets, as you’d ex­pect, bizarre and grotesque.

Some of those for­mer North Korean cit­i­zens/pris­on­ers told the Map­ping Project that the moun­tains around po­lice sta­tions are off-lim­its to civil­ians. North Kore­ans can’t even go for a hike in some parts of their coun­try. The as­sumed rea­son for this is be­cause the po­lice bury bod­ies in the moun­tains. When they bother to bury them at all.

Es­capees say there are all kinds of rea­sons why some­body might get the death penalty, in­clud­ing smug­gling drugs, try­ing to es­cape one of the gu­lags af­ter be­ing thrown into one, watch­ing a South Korean soap opera or any other TV show, sell­ing cop­per, steal­ing rice, gang ac­tiv­ity and even “dam­ag­ing of state prop­erty,” as a young Amer­i­can named Otto Warm­bier found out too late re­cently, or at least his fam­ily did. It should be noted that in North Korea, all prop­erty is state prop­erty, so watch your step. Top of­fi­cials can be ex­e­cuted for hav­ing lux­ury goods, which is the only rea­son to be a top of­fi­cial in North Korea. It ap­pears Lil’ Kim has you com­ing and go­ing. The Longs of Louisiana only re­quired you to pre-sign a res­ig­na­tion form as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment, thereby giv­ing them the abil­ity to dis­miss you at any time. Lil’ Kim has the paper­work for your ex­e­cu­tion af­ter you’ve signed for your yearly bonus.

More from the re­port:

“. . . . [O]ur in­ter­vie­wees stated that pub­lic ex­e­cu­tions take place near river banks, in river beds, near bridges, in pub­lic sports sta­di­ums, in the lo­cal mar­ket­place, on school grounds in the fringes of the city, or on moun­tain­sides” where more peo­ple can watch the state’s pun­ish­ment.

Yes, on school grounds. Ap­par­ently one part of the young’s in­doc­tri­na­tion is watch­ing ex­e­cu­tions at re­cess, the bet­ter to keep them a-feared of the state and truly lov­ing Big Brother.

Of course, not ev­ery­body is hung, shot or placed be­fore anti-air­craft guns. One wit­ness re­calls po­lice beat­ing to death a con­vict as means of ex­e­cu­tion, be­cause “some crimes were con­sid­ered not worth wast­ing bul­lets on.” But im­por­tant enough to war­rant the death sen­tence just the same.

The Map­ping Project, its au­thors say, hope its work comes in handy one day for ex­huma­tions and “le­gal pro­ceed­ings.” And maybe the project “will as­sist in de­sign­ing a blue­print for pro­cess­ing the sites, and the re­sources that will be re­quired for the ef­fi­cient de­liv­ery of jus­tice, repa­ra­tions and memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion mea­sures.”

That’s legalese for: We must doc­u­ment these crimes, for we have our own souls to think about.

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