In a report this week, the U.N. Human Rights Office has drawn attention to the horrific conditions in North Korean prisons, finding evidence of torture and forced labor that could amount to crimes against humanity.
The report drew attention to forced labor that persists in prisons in North Korea “which may amount to the crime against humanity of enslavement”, drawing condemnation from the U.N. and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged governments to acknowledge the atrocities and called for action to be taken against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to “prevent further violations.”
The report, issued seven years after a landmark U.N. investigation found that crimes against humanity were being committed, also said that political prison camps run by security forces still persisted, although information is more scarce.
“Accountability for grave human rights violations and ongoing crimes against humanity should not be a secondary consideration in bringing North Korea to the negotiating table,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told Reuters.
Extensive information about the extent of abuses occurring in North Korea’s prison system is limited but the U.N. report has said that the repressive state is running political prison camps.
While North Korea has denied the existence of political prison camps, this recent report reiterates findings, seven years after a 2014 U.N. inquiry, that point to crimes against humanity being committed in North Korea’s prison system.
Former detainees interviewed for the report were able to offer an insight into the extreme abuse they faced and provided “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.”
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