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

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    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.
    British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugeesi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    May 06, 2016 9:24 PM
    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugees

    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Strangers Share Secrets Through Postcards

    Frank Warren owns a million secrets. Strangers from around the world send him postcards with their confessions, their disappointments, and their hopes for the future, all anonymously. He displays his favorites online and in exhibits, and shares them with audiences in sold-out appearances around the globe. As VOA's Julie Taboh reports, what started as a simple social experiment has evolved into a multi-faceted and hugely successful global phenomenon.
    Video

    Video Largest Ground-based Telescope Under Construction

    While NASA's engineers are nearing the final phase of assembling the new James Webb space telescope, scheduled to be deployed in 2018, an international consortium led by the U.S. is laying foundations and building parts for a ground-based telescope, much larger than any other. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora