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UN probe into N Korea atrocities

September 17, 2013

A team of UN investigators has indexed a series of "unspeakable" human rights violations in North Korea. Officials in Pyongyang denied the allegations, based on the testimony of exiles and former prisoners.

In this photo taken June 3, 2009, a female North Korean soldier looks out from behind a barbed-wire fence around a camp on the North Korean river banks across from Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province (ddp images/AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Image: AP

The team on Monday told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the testimonies were "representative of large scale patterns."

The victims' stories demonstrated "gross violations of human rights," according to former Australian judge Michael Kirby, who headed a commission of inquiry into the allegations.

"We think of the testimony of a young man, imprisoned from birth and living on rodents, lizards and grass to survive, witnessing the public execution of his mother and his brother," said Kirby.

The commission was created in March and took testimonies from dozens of victims and experts at public hearing in Seoul and Tokyo.

"We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief," said Kirby.

Mother forced to drown baby

Among the other harrowing stories was one from a young woman who said she saw a fellow prisoner forced to drown her own baby in a bucket. One man gave evidence that he had been forced to burn the bodies of starved inmates before scattering their ashes on fields.

"The commission listened to political prison camp survivors who suffered through childhoods of starvation and unspeakable atrocities, as a product of the 'guilt by association' practice, punishing other generations for a family member's perceived political views or affiliation," Kirby said. As well as insisting that there should be full accountability for such human rights violations, Kirby challenged Pyongyang to produce "an ounce of evidence" in its defense.

North Korea has claimed that such evidence amounts to nothing more than slander from "human scum."

North Korean diplomat Kim Yong Ho was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying that the inquiry was a defamatory plot to force regime change in Pyongyang. Kim said the issue had been politicized by the EU and Japan "in alliance with the US hostile policy."

rc/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)