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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid