Crimes against humanity have occurred under various communist regimes. Actions such as forced deportations, massacres, torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, terror, ethnic cleansing, enslavement and the deliberate starvation of people such as the starvation which occurred during the Holodomor and the Great Leap Forward. Such events have been described as crimes against humanity.
The 2008 Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism stated that crimes which were committed in the name of communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity. Very few people have been tried for these crimes, although the government of Cambodia has prosecuted former members of the Khmer Rouge and the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have passed laws that have led to the prosecution of several perpetrators for their crimes against the Baltic peoples. They were tried for crimes which they committed during the Occupation of the Baltic states in 1940 and 1941 as well as for crimes which they committed during the Soviet reoccupation of those states which occurred after the war. Trials were also held for attacks which the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) carried out against the Forest Brethren.
There is a scholarly consensus that the Cambodian genocide which was carried out by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot in what became known as the Killing Fields was a crime against humanity. Legal scholars Antoine Garapon and David Boyle, sociologist Michael Mann and professor of political science Jacques Sémelin all believe that the actions of the Communist Party of Kampuchea can best be described as a crime against humanity rather than genocide.
In 1997, the co-prime ministers of Cambodia sought help from the United Nations in seeking justice for the crimes perpetrated by the communists during the years from 1975 to 1979. In June 1997, Pol Pot was taken prisoner during an internal power struggle within the Khmer Rouge and offered up to the international community. However, no country was willing to seek his extradition. The policies enacted by the Khmer Rouge led to the deaths of one quarter of the population in just four years.
Under Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong was the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party which took control of China in 1949 until his death in September 1976. During this time, he instituted several reform efforts, the most notable of which were the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. In January 1958, Mao launched the first five-year plan, the latter part of which was known as the Great Leap Forward. The plan was intended to expedite production and heavy industry as a supplement to economic growth similar to the Soviet model and the defining factor behind Mao's Chinese Marxist policies. Mao spent ten months touring the country in 1958 in order to gain support for the Great Leap Forward and inspect the progress that had already been made. What this entailed was the humiliation, public castigation and torture of all who questioned the leap. The five-year-plan first instituted the division of farming communities into communes. The Chinese National Programme for Agricultural Development (NPAD) began to accelerate its drafting plans for the countries industrial and agricultural outputs. The drafting plans were initially successful as the Great Leap Forward divided the Chinese workforce and production briefly soared.
Eventually, the planners developed even more ambitious goals such as replacing the draft plans for 1962 with those for 1967 and the industries developed supply bottlenecks, but they could not meet the growth demands. Rapid industrial development came in turn with a swelling of urban populations. Due to the furthering of collectivization, heavy industry production and the stagnation of the farming industry that did not keep up with the demands of population growth in combination with a year (1959) of unfortunate weather in farming areas, only 170 million tons of grain were produced, far below the actual amount of grain which the population needed. Mass starvation ensued and it was made even worse in 1960, when only 144 million tons of grain were produced, a total amount which was 26 million tons lower than the total amount of grain that was produced in 1959. The government instituted rationing, but between 1958 and 1962 it is estimated that at least 10 million people died of starvation. The famine did not go unnoticed and Mao was fully aware of the major famine that was sweeping the countryside, but rather than try to fix the problem he blamed it on counterrevolutionaries who were "hiding and dividing grain". Mao even symbolically decided to abstain from eating meat in honor of those who were suffering.
Due to the widespread famine across the country, there were many reports of human cannibalism, including that of a farmer from Hunan who was forced to kill and eat his own child. When questioned about it, he said he did it "out of mercy". An original estimate of the final death toll ranged from 15 to 40 million. According to Frank Dikötter, a chair professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong and the author of Mao's Great Famine, a book which details the Great Leap Forward and the consequences of the strong armed implementation of the economic reform, the total number of people who were killed in the famine which lasted from 1958 to 1962 ran upwards of 45 million. Of those who were killed in the famine, 6–8% of them were often tortured first and then prematurely killed by the government, 2% of them committed suicide and 5% of them died in Mao's labor camps which were built to hold those who were labelled "enemies of the people". In an article for The New York Times, Dikötter also references severe punishments for slight infractions such as being buried alive for stealing a handful of grain or losing an ear and being branded for digging up a potato. Higher up the chain of command, a chairman in an executive meeting in 1959 expressed apathy with regard to the widespread suffering, stating: "When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill".
Three victims of the prison camp system in North Korea unsuccessfully attempted to bring Kim Jong-il to justice with the aid of the Citizens Coalition for Human Rights of abductees and North Korean Refugees. In December 2010, they filed charges in The Hague. The NGO group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has stated that the gulag system appears to be specifically designed to kill a large number of people who are labelled enemies or have a differing political belief.
In a speech before the Parliament of Romania, President Traian Băsescu stated that "the criminal and illegitimate former communist regime committed massive human rights violations and crimes against humanity, killing and persecuting as many as two million people between 1945 and 1989". The speech was based on the 660-page report of a Presidential Commission headed by Vladimir Tismăneanu, a professor at the University of Maryland. The report also stated that "the regime exterminated people by assassination and deportation of hundreds of thousands of people" and it also highlighted the Pitești Experiment.
Gheorghe Boldur-Lățescu has also stated that the Pitești Experiment was a crime against humanity, while Dennis Deletant has described it as "[a]n experiment of a grotesque originality [....] [which] employed techniques of psychiatric abuse which were not only designed to inculcate terror into opponents of the regime but also to destroy the personality of the individual. The nature and enormity of the experiment [...] set Romania apart from the other Eastern European regimes."
Dominic McGoldrick writes that as the head of a "highly centralised and oppressive" dictatorship, Josip Broz Tito wielded tremendous power in Yugoslavia, with his dictatorial rule administered through an elaborate bureaucracy which routinely suppressed human rights. The main victims of this repression were known and alleged Stalinists during the first years such as Dragoslav Mihailović and Dragoljub Mićunović, but during the following years even some of the most prominent among Tito's collaborators were arrested. On 19 November 1956, Milovan Đilas, perhaps the closest of Tito's collaborator and widely regarded as Tito's possible successor, was arrested because of his criticism against Tito's regime. The repression did not exclude intellectuals and writers such as Venko Markovski, who was arrested and sent to jail in January 1956 for writing poems considered anti-Titoist. Tito made dramatical bloody repression and several massacres of POW after World War II.
Tito's Yugoslavia remained a tightly controlled police state. According to David Mates, outside the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia had more political prisoners than all of the rest of Eastern Europe combined. Tito's secret police was modelled on the Soviet KGB. Its members were ever-present and often acted extrajudicially, with victims including middle-class intellectuals, liberals and democrats. Yugoslavia was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but scant regard was paid to some of its provisions.
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