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North Korea's barbaric ways

North Korea’s barbaric ways
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North Korea’s barbaric ways

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A new report by the United Nations human rights office has said torture and forced labour are rife in North Korea's prisons, amounting to possible...

A new report by the United Nations human rights office has said torture and forced labour are rife in North Korea's prisons, amounting to possible crimes against humanity.

The publication, issued seven years after a landmark UN investigation found that crimes against humanity were being committed, also found evidence that secretive political prison camps are still being operated by security forces.

Like China, North Korea too thinks that it is not accountable to the world. The arrogance of its rulers in unparalleled.

The North uses "guilt by association" to lock up entire families just for knowing someone convicted of "wrong thought." Few have ever escaped. That's because anyone who tries, plans, or has knowledge of an escape is executed, and all prisoners are required to watch.

North Korea's political prisons are just as bad as — and perhaps even worse than — the Nazi concentration camps of the Holocaust, a renowned judge and Auschwitz survivor has concluded after hearing from former North Korean prisoners and guards.

The report published now has recorded truthfully the statements of several former detainees in the prisons and tells us a horrendous story. Citing interviews with former detainees, the report said it continued to receive "consistent and credible accounts of the systematic infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering upon detainees, through the infliction of beatings, stress positions and starvation in places of detention".

This reconfirmed the 2014 findings of the UN inquiry, led by former Australian judge Michael Kirby, and "indicates that the crime against humanity of torture continues to take place in the ordinary prison system", it said. Torture of every kind, regular beatings for minor aberrations and humiliations even on women prisoners seem to be quite common here.

The agency said nearly all of the people interviewed for the report who were detained described "having been beaten during interrogations and as punishment for minor infractions". Forced labour, "which may amount to the crime against humanity of enslavement" also persists in prisons, the report noted.

It called for the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for prosecutions or establish an ad hoc tribunal. The 88-page report, titled "'Worth Less Than an Animal': Abuses and Due Process Violations in Pretrial Detention in North Korea," of the human rights watch programme in October last described the torturous conditions in North Korea's detention camps - unhealthy and unhygienic detention conditions: very little food; overcrowded cells with insufficient floor space to sleep; little opportunity to bathe; and a lack of blankets, clothes, soap, and menstrual hygiene supplies.

Former detainees and police officers described detainees being covered by lice, bedbugs, and fleas. Many detainees said guards or interrogators, often after demanding bribes, unofficially allowed family members or friends to provide food or other essentials after questioning ended.

However, North Korea denies the existence of political prison camps and last July denounced the United Kingdom for announcing sanctions against two organisations that the British government has said are involved in forced labour, torture and murder in the camps. So far, at least two lakh people have simply disappeared from the prisons. What is the world waiting for?

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