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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid