The United Nations has too often turned a blind eye to oppression, but a report issued this week on North Korea by a U.N. panel is the exact opposite of a whitewash.

Not only does the panel, chaired by former Australian jurist Michael Kirby, accuse the regime of multiple crimes against humanity, it also recommends prosecution of the top leaders by an international court.

To pick just one of the devastating conclusions: “In the political prison camps ... the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide.”

It's not as if such practices have been a secret. But to have a U.N. panel issue findings that confirm the worst reports is a watershed.

At a press conference, Kirby cautioned the panel was not a court and “we do not presume to judge,” but his own judgment was abundantly clear.

“At the end of the Second World War,” he said, “so many people said, 'If only we had known, if only we had known ... well, now the international community does know. ... There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn't know.”