New North Korea constitution calls Kim Jong Un head of state, seen as step to US peace treaty

Kim Jong Un, a third-generation hereditary leader, rules North Korea with an iron-fist and the title change will mean little to the way he wheels power. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019
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New North Korea constitution calls Kim Jong Un head of state, seen as step to US peace treaty

  • Pyongyang has long called for a peace deal with the US to normalize relations and end the technical state of war that has existed since the Korean War ended

SEOUL: Kim Jong Un has been formally named head of state of North Korea and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution observers said was possibly aimed at preparing for a peace treaty with the United States.
North Korea has also long called for a peace deal with the United States to normalize relations and end the technical state of war that has existed since the 1950-1953 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
The new constitution, unveiled on the Naenara state portal site on Thursday, said that Kim as chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a top governing body created in 2016, was “the supreme representative of all the Korean people,” which means head of state, and “commander-in-chief.”
A previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commands the country’s “overall military force.”
Previously, North Korea’s official head of state was the president of the titular parliament, known as the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.
“Kim had dreamed of becoming the president of North Korea and he effectively made it come true,” said Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute in Seoul.
“He has long sought to shake off the abnormal military-first policy the country has stuck to for a long time.”
Kim shifted his focus to the economy last year, launched nuclear talks with the United States and moved to revamp his image as a world leader via summits with South Korea, China and Russia.
Hong Min, a senior researcher of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the title change was also aimed at preparing for a potential peace treaty with the United States.
“The amendment may well be a chance to establish Kim’s status as the signer of a peace treaty when it comes, while projecting the image of the country as a normal state,” Hong said.
Washington had baulked at signing a comprehensive peace treaty before North Korea takes substantial steps toward denuclearization, but US officials have signaled they may be willing to conclude a more limited agreement to reduce tensions, open liaison offices, and move toward normalizing relations.
Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled, although fresh talks with Pyongyang are supposed to take place this month.
North Korea has frozen nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing since 2017. But it tested new short-range missiles after a second summit with the United States in February broke down, and US officials believe it has expanded its arsenal by continuing to produce bomb fuel and missiles.
The new constitution continued to describe North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.
In reality Kim, a third-generation hereditary leader, rules North Korea with an iron-fist and the title change will mean little to the way he wheels power.


Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

In this Wednesday, March 20, 2019 file photo, a woman prays at the Potocari memorial center for victims of the Srebrenica genocide, in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (AP)
Updated 15 min 48 sec ago
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Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

  • The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II

THE HAGUE: The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday slashed the state’s liability for 350 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying peacekeepers had only a “slim” chance of preventing their deaths.
The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified residents who had sought safety in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the besieged Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
The lightly armed Dutch troops eventually became overwhelmed and shut the gates to new arrivals before allowing Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic to evacuate the refugees.
The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Judges, however, on Friday reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent the Dutch state’s responsibility for compensation to the families in a case brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ organization.
The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II and the darkest episode in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
“The Dutch State bears very limited liability in the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ case,” the Supreme Court said. “That liability is limited to 10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives of approximately 350 victims.”

After the ruling, Mothers’ president Munira Subasic, who lost family members including her son, husband and father in the massacre, expressed disappointment.
“Today we experienced humiliation upon humiliation. We could not even hear the judgment in our own language because we were not given a translator,” she told AFP.
At Srebrenica “every life was taken away 100 percent. There is little we can do with 10 percent, but yes, the responsibility still lies where it does.”
“I only have two bones. I have found less than 10 percent of his body,” she added, referring to her teenage son.
The Dutch government accepted responsibility, saying it was relieved that “finally there was some clarity.”
A Dutch court originally held the state liable for compensation in 2014. In 2017 the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court.
The lower court had said in 2017 that the Dutch actions meant the Muslims were “denied a 30 percent chance of avoiding abuse and execution,” and thus the Dutch state was liable for 30 percent of damages owed to families.
The Supreme Court agreed that “the state did act wrongfully in relation to the evacuation of the 5,000 refugees” in the compound, including 350 Muslim men the Bosnian Serbs were unaware of.
It said the Dutch peacekeepers “failed to offer these 350 male refugees the choice to stay where they were, even though that would have been possible.”
But explaining the decision to reduce the liability, the Supreme Court said that “the chance that the male refugees would have escaped the Bosnian Serbs had they been given the choice to stay was slim, but not negligible.”
Reacting to the ruling, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a statement the cabinet would “examine how to best implement the liability for damages suffered by the relatives in such a way it does justice to the Supreme Court ruling.”

In a swipe at the failure of other foreign powers to act during the 1995 crisis, the top court added that the “chance of Dutchbat (the Dutch UN mission) receiving effective support from the international community was slim.”
Former Dutchbat soldiers attending the case said they were disappointed on behalf of the victims’ families.
“I think the final judgment is a bit disappointing, especially when you see the court ruling of 30 percent and now it’s downgraded to 10 percent,” said Remko de Bruijne, a former Dutch blue helmet who served at Srebrenica.
“I think that’s not fair for the Mothers of Srebrenica but, on the other hand, now it’s clear,” he told AFP.
Srebrenica has cast a long shadow over The Netherlands, forcing a the government to resign in 2002 after a scathing report on the role of politicians in the episode.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is currently serving a life sentence in jail in The Hague after being convicted of genocide over Srebrenica and war crimes throughout the 1990s.
Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an international tribunal in The Hague.
Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague at the time of his death in 2006.