North Korea has had some light shed on the country’s methods of operation and extreme human rights violations with the release of the report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights on Monday.
Horrific testimony from those who were captured and imprisoned, for reasons as shady as having a suspicious family member or trying to find food for their families, have been painstakingly extracted from those who have survived the hell of North Korean Prison Camps.
These stories, which are painful to hear and excruciating to tell, have been gathered over the last eleven months in an ongoing investigation into human rights violations by leaders of North Korea’s troubled regime, according to CNN.
Some of the tales from survivors are of the kind that once heard, will never be forgotten. They are the kind that inspire shock and disbelief and admittedly paint a picture of a brutal and heartless government “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
The story of a malnourished pregnant woman who, against all odds, gave birth in a filthy camp was especially disturbing. A guard was alerted to the baby’s arrival by its cries, for which the young mother was brutally beaten. As he beat her, she begged to keep her new baby. When she was on the verge of unconsciousness, he forced her to pick up her baby and hold it face down in water until the cries stopped forever.
In August, North Korea condemned the hearings as a “charade” to “hear testimonies from human scum” and in another response, North Korea said in a letter that it “totally and categorically rejects the Commission of Inquiry”.
As determined as North Korea may be to write off accusations and investigations, the testimonies of North Korea’s survivors are damning enough to erase any doubt there may have been that human rights in that country have been exceedingly and inarguably violated.
The commission also told China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending defectors back to North Korea to face unspeakable torture and almost certain death.
“These are not the occasional wrongs that can be done by officials everywhere in the world, they are wrongs against humanity, they are wrongs that shock the consciousness of humanity,” Michael Kirby, a former chief justice of Australia and chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, told waiting journalists.
The stories are unmistakably inhumane and invoke images of Nazi concentration camps. Take this testimony from a young woman, for example.
“We finished our work and we were about to pick up this grass or the plant that we knew we could eat,” former prisoner Jee Heon A told the commission of her friend, Kim Young Hee. “And then the guards saw us, and he came running and he stepped on our hands and then he brought us to this place and he told us to kneel.”
The guard forced the two girls to eat grass, roots, and soil. Kim Young Hee became extremely ill with diarrhea after eating the soil, and soon died, leaving Jee Heon A feeling alone and helpless.
“There was nothing I could do,” Jee said. “I could not give her any medicine. And when she died, she couldn’t even close her eyes. She died with her eyes open. I cried my heart out.”
She then told of the mass burial of her friend, Kim, with about 20 other bodies, a fairly common occurrence.
“We covered the hole with clumped and frozen earth, but after a week when we went to the tomb, it was gone, the bodies were not there. We felt strange when we were going up that hill. We later found out that the old man who was guarding the place had his dogs eat the bodies. He raised five dogs and the dogs were eating the heads and the body parts of dead bodies.”
These are just a partial example of the unimaginable conditions for prisoners in North Korea.
Supreme leader Kim Jong-un and his security chiefs could possibly face international justice for the systematic Nazi-style torture and killing of the citizens of North Korea, according to Reuters.
Michael Kirby said he expected the group’s findings to “galvanize action on the part of the international community”. If it doesn’t, we should be eternally ashamed of ourselves.
Image via You Tube