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From rape to feeding insects, everything happens in North Korea prison

News Desk || risingbd.com

Published: 19:30, 24 March 2023   Update: 19:31, 24 March 2023
From rape to feeding insects, everything happens in North Korea prison

Extrajudicial executions, rape, forced abortions, jail without trial, torture, starvation rations that leave prisoners so hungry some turn to eating insects.

These are just some of the abuses commonplace in North Korean prisons and other detention facilities, according to former detainees whose testimony forms the basis of a new report released by a human rights watchdog this week.

Using interviews with hundreds of survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of abuse who have fled the country, along with official documents, satellite images, architectural analysis and digital modeling of penal facilities, the non-profit NGO Korea Future has built up what it says is the most detailed picture yet of life inside the secretive country’s penal system.

“The purpose of our report is basically to reveal the human rights violations that have taken place within North Korea’s penal systems. (It) finds that even 10 years after the UN established a Commission of Inquiry there still is systematic and widespread human rights violations,” said Kim Jiwon, an investigator with Korea Future, which has offices in London, Seoul and The Hague and focuses on human rights issues in North Korea.

Alongside constructing 3D models of some of the detention sites, the group has documented what it believes are more than 1,000 instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, hundreds of instances of rape and other forms of sexual violence and more than 100 cases of denial of the right to life.

“Comparable to the Soviet Gulag, (North Korea’s) penal system is not to detain and rehabilitate persons sentenced by courts in safe and humane facilities. Nor is its purpose to decrease recidivism and increase public safety,” the report says.

“It is to isolate persons from society whose behaviour conflicts with upholding the singular authority of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.”

The report states it has identified hundreds of active participants it alleges have participated in the violence and is calling for investigations and prosecutions for the abuses. Korea Future used witness testimony and satellite imagery to map 206 detention facilities, across every North Korean province, alleging that abuses are personally carried out by officials as high-ranking as major generals.

The report makes for grim reading. Among the cases it highlights are those of three people jailed after trying to cross the border – a punishable crime in this country. The group alleges one was forced to have an abortion when seven or eight months pregnant; another was fed as little as 80 grams (less than 3 ounces) of corn a day, a starvation diet that saw his weight drop from 60 kilograms (132 pounds) to 37 kilograms (82 pounds) within a month and forced him to supplement his diet with cockroaches and rodents; a third was forced to hold stress positions for up to 17 hours a day for 30 days. Other survivors, who spoke to CNN, recounted surviving on animal feed and becoming skeletally thin, witnessing rapes and being subject to severe beatings.

Korea Future is hoping other countries will consider pursuing domestic court cases against North Korean agents and that some of its findings can be used as evidence. And, it hopes western countries will apply targeted sanctions against some of the accused in the report.

Due to North Korea’s self-imposed isolation, which has become even stricter since the country closed its borders in 2020 in response to Covid-19, CNN cannot independently verify the accounts.

However, the conditions outlined in the report are in line with the findings of recent investigations by the United Nations, including a report to the UN Human Rights council this week by Special Rapporteur Elizabeth Salmón, who said women detained in political prison camps were “subjected to torture and ill-treatment, forced labor and gender-based violence, including sexual violence by state officials.”

The hermit country is known as one of the most closed and repressive nations in the world. CNN has sought comment from North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York for comment, but it has not responded.

North Korea frequently denies allegations of human rights abuses – in its prisons or elsewhere – often claiming they are part of a US-orchestrated campaign against it. This week, soon after a UN meeting on the human rights situation in the country, North Korea released a statement saying it “resolutely denounces and rejects” what it characterized as a “US-waged human rights pressure campaign.”

“That such a country takes issue with the ‘human rights’ situation of other countries is indeed a mockery of and an insult to human rights itself,” reads the statement.

Referring to a joint military exercise between the US and South Korea, it claimed the US was using its “human rights maneuver as a mechanism for invading” North Korea. _Agencies