News / Asia

UN Investigators Accuse N. Korea of Widespread Rights Violations

Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, gestures during a news conference after delivering his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Sept. 17, 2013.
Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, gestures during a news conference after delivering his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Sept. 17, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
A United Nations Commission of Inquiry accuses North Korea of systematic, widespread and grave violations, which could amount to crimes against humanity.  In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Commission presents searing testimony of great human suffering by camp survivors. 

If there was one thing Shin Dong Hyuk could count on during the two decades he spent in a North Korean prison camp, it was that he would suffer.  Like others, it could encompass a range of abuses, from beatings to starvation, to committing unspeakable acts of barbarism. 

But the worst was hopelessness - the resignation, as Shin described to an audience in Washington last year, that there was no escape.

"The first thing that prisoners learn," Shin said, "is that if they escape, they will be punished. They will be punished by death and that is the rule that cannot be broken."

Accounts of abuses gathered from North Korean exiles in Seoul and Tokyo were the focus of a report submitted Tuesday in Geneva to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The investigators say the public hearings, which were held last month, provided hours of riveting testimony from dozens of victims as well as several expert witnesses.

Michael Kirby, chairman of the three-member Commission, says the group listened to political prison camp survivors who suffered through childhoods of starvation and unspeakable atrocities.  He says children are imprisoned in a practice known as “guilt by association" in which generations are punished for a family member’s perceived political views or affiliation. 

“We think of the testimony of a young man, imprisoned from birth and living on rodents and lizards and grass to survive, witnessing the public execution of his mother and his brother," he said. "We think of the testimony of a young woman, forcibly repatriated and imprisoned for leaving the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], describing how she witnessed a female prisoner forced to drown her own baby in a bucket.” 

Kirby says the Commission heard testimony from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief. 

He says the Commission heard of deliberate starvation and other serious abuses occurring in other types of detention facilities and the suffering of an entire population recurrently facing malnutrition.

He says the testimonies heard by the investigators represent large-scale patterns of behavior that may constitute systematic and gross human rights violations.

North Korean Councilor Kim Hong Yo rejected the report.  He called the inquiry a fake and a defamatory plot to force regime change in North Korea.  He said the human rights inquiry had been politicized by the European Union and Japan in alliance with the hostile policy of the United States. 

“The Government of the DPRK will in the future, too, continue to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of its own peoples braving through all sorts of mean political strategy and plots pursued by the hostile forces,” said  Kim Hong Yo.  

This is the first report produced by the Commission, which was formed in March to investigate gross violations, including the violation of the right to food, torture and inhumane treatment in North Korea. 

The Commission says it will continue its investigations in the coming months.  It says it will seek to determine which state institutions and officials were responsible for gross human rights violations. The commission is expected to submit a final report early next year.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs