North Korea: UN Security Council must act on crimes against humanity

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The United Nations Security Council must increase pressure on North Korea to address the horrific human rights situation in the country, Amnesty International said following publication of a damning UN report. 

“The gruesome reality of life in North Korea is laid bare in the Commission’s comprehensive report. The gravity and nature of human rights violations are off the scale,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International. 

The UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea – tasked with investigating grave, systemic and widespread human rights violations in the country – published its final report on Monday. 

It found that crimes against humanity have been committed by North Korea, with people sent to political prison camps, tortured and sometimes executed without trial. 

 “The UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council should seize this opportunity and use their power and influence to ensure the North Korean government acts on the Commission’s findings, The people of North Korea deserve no less,” said Rife.

A referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal were two options outlined by the UN Commission to ensure those responsible for crimes against humanity are held to account.

“The international community cannot afford to sit idly by, as these incomprehensible crimes are perpetrated. The Commission’s findings reinforce the need for the UN Security Council to raise human rights alongside security and peace when it comes to North Korea,” said Rife.  

The Commission urged North Korea to acknowledge that human rights violations are taking place including the vast network of political prison camps. 

Other recommendations in the 372-page report included urging China and other governments to end the repatriation of individuals to North Korea.  

Background   

In December 2013, Amnesty International published satellite images showing the on-going development of two of North Korea’s largest political prison camps. The evidence was shared with the UN Commission of Inquiry.

Hundreds of thousands of people – including children – are detained in political prison camps and other detention facilities in North Korea.  

Many of those have not committed any crime but are merely family members of those deemed guilty of serious political crimes. They are detained as a form of collective punishment, “guilt-by-association.”

Nearly a million North Koreans have starved to death since the 1990s. The country’s famines and food crises have been largely invisible because of political controls, including restrictions on the movement of both North Koreans and staff of international humanitarian agencies, and the near-total suppression of freedom of expression, information and association.

Notes to editors

Amnesty International provided information to the inquiry on a wide variety of human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity.

Voices from the Camps – Video Interviews available

The “Voices from the Camps” video features previously unseen interviews with four individuals who have escaped North Korea, and who testified before the inquiry. 

A five minute news access tape of the interviews is available for download here, this includes an English subtitled version and a clean version. The people interviewed are:

The guard - former prison guard speaking exclusively to Amnesty about how officials would rape women from the camp and then kill them, and the methods for executing prisoners.

The “gossiper” - Kim Young Soon spent 9 years in Yodok prison camp along with her parents and children who all died there, for 'gossiping' about an affair her friend had with Kim Jong Il.

The army officer – Joo-Il Kim talking about mass starvation of the population including graphic detail of the end stage of a person starving to death.

The trafficked woman - Park Ji-hyun was sold to a Chinese farmer and was sent to a labour camp for trying to escape.

Satellite Images of Political Prison Camps

In December 2013, Amnesty International published satellite images showing the on-going development of two of North Korea’s largest political prison camps – kwanliso 15 and 16. The images and analysis were shared with the Commission of Inquiry.  The satellite images can be downloaded here 

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