group identifies 600 alleged North Korean rights abusers | Politics News
Korea Future says evidence of widespread abuse in prison camps across the country should spur action.
The future of Korea’s UK based non-profit arpublished a list of almost 600 people associated with human rights abuses in the North Korean criminal justice system in order to report them for possible prosecution.
North Korea’s human rights abuses have been widely documented by rights groups, but its government led by Kim Jong Un and the Workers’ Party of Korea has been difficult to prosecute from abroad.
“For North Korea alone, we have identified nearly 600 individual perpetrators responsible for more than 5,000 violations of international law. Armed with this evidence, we call on states and international justice actors to use our findings to challenge impunity in North Korea,” said Hae Ju Kang, co-director of Korea Future.
Korea Future says it hopes that by naming officials and supplementing their list with a new database of evidence, they can encourage governments and others to move forward with prosecutions or other measures, including Magnitsky-type sanctions, which target those suspected of systematic human rights violations.
“As justice actors around the world document the international crimes committed in Ukraine today, they seek to challenge impunity, hold perpetrators to account, and ultimately fight for the values and sacred human standards that cannot be taken for granted,” said Hyeonsim Lee, an interviewer from Korea Future. “We seek to do the same for the crimes against humanity committed, both now and in the past, and largely under the scene, in North Korea.”
The North Korean government is already heavily sanctioned, notably with the US Treasury’s Magnitsky sanctions announced last December. The current list of those sanctioned under the law, named after a Russian whistleblower who died in custody, ranges from Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to those linked to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and prevents them from traveling to the United States or accessing funds there.
Korea Future’s latest report details evidence of human rights abuses committed against nearly 800 detainees at 148 facilities run by the Ministry of People’s Security, Ministry of State Security and People’s Committee of North Korea.
The abuse violates a wide range of international agreements on prisoners’ rights as well as those protecting civil and political enlightenment, he said.
Individual testimonies detail how prisoners are often held in pretrial detention for long periods of time and have no access to adequate defense counsel – or sometimes none – before being sentenced. In other cases, penalties such as forced labor may be handed down in public critique sessions overseen by government officials.
Prison sentences can be served in a variety of facilities depending on the type of crime and length of sentence, ranging from re-education centers to “training through labor” camps. No matter where they are, prisoners regularly face human rights abuses such as violence, torture and forced labor, while not having access to food, water and adequate hygiene products, which makes them vulnerable to disease.
After serving a prison sentence, some inmates may also be stripped of their citizenship or membership in the Workers’ Party, which is made up of North Korea’s elite and enjoys special benefits.
A major United Nations investigation in 2014 revealed that as many as 120,000 people were being held as political prisoners in detention camps across the country.
Shin Dong-hyuk, whose testimony was included in the report and who has written a book about his experience, told the UN he was born in a political prison camp and was subjected to numerous abuses, in particular having been forced to attend the execution of his mother and brother.
Last month, the UN human rights rapporteur for the country, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said he continued to receive allegations about such camps and that their existence constituted a “crime against the humanity”.
But Korea Future stressed that the regime does not confine abuse to its critics, but also to individuals convicted of lesser “administrative” offenses like practicing religion, crossing the border with China or even using of a telephone card.
“What we are witnessing is not just the detention and brutalization of political enemies of the state. Rather, we see how arbitrary mass detention and criminal violence are carried out against all categories of detainees,” said Suyeon Yoo, another co-director of Korea Forward.