Tuesday, May 22, 2007

North Korea inmates face inhumanity in labor camps

Political prisoners held in North Korea's work camps are sometimes forced to defile the bodies of public execution victims, a study by a US-based rights group said Monday.

The report by Freedom House concludes that the camps breach almost every definition of crimes against humanity under modern international law. "The phenomena of repression associated with the political prison camp system of (North Korea) are clear and massive crimes against humanity as now defined in law," said the report written by David Hawk.

It said prisoners who break camp rules, mostly by stealing food, or who try to escape are executed by hanging or firing squad, usually in public.

In the study, former prisoners recalled compulsory gatherings for executions as "the most sickening experience in the camps," the report said. In some cases prisoners were compelled to stone or strike the corpse to rob the victims of dignity and instil fear in remaining inmates, it said.

The report estimates that up to 200,000 people, including offenders and up to three generations of their family, are held without trial and subjected to forced labor under extremely severe conditions.

Freedom House's findings were based on interviews in South Korea with former northern prisoners who escaped or defected after their release.


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