UN (finally) releases a damning report on human rights abuses in North Korea

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Anyone who looks beyond the annual springtime media hysterics as North Korea threatens to destroy the world each year knows that atrocities and human rights abuses have been systematically carried out by the government on a massive scale for years. There is no free speech, no semblance of a free press, and no religious freedom. Citizens are assigned jobs that they must work, and they have to pay the government if there is no work to do. Political "dissidents," along with their families, languish in gulags where children are born and grow up, knowing nothing of the outside world. Peasants starve and ordinary citizens pass meth around to suppress appetites for lack of enough to eat. Paranoia is a way of life where neighbors are encouraged to denounce each other for dissidence.

And yet, until now, the international community has primarily preoccupied itself with the regime's embarrassing missile launch attempts and pathetic nuclear tests.

DPRK Propaganda Poster of Kim Il-Sung. Image credit: Wikipedia.
But now - finally - all that is about to change. Last year, the UN Human Rights Commission set up a panel to collect and review evidence of human rights violations in the Hermit Kingdom. Their findings, which were released in full on Monday, are damning on a scale hitherto unseen from the typically-reserved UN. Leaked information includes "an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera."

Remind me not to go to North Korea; I love Brazilian soaps.

At work since last March, the panel has gathered information from "satellite imagery, evidence and testimonies from more than 100 victims, witnesses and experts regarding North Korea" and includes information collected by Amnesty International.
"This may actually be the best chance we've had in a long time to raise the profile, to get more attention to the grave situation inside North Korea and to actually put pressure on the government at the UN and by other governments to make change on the ground," Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
Naturally, the North Korean government has refused to cooperate with the investigation, dismissed all who testified as "human scum," and dismissed the whole exercise as a US-led conspiracy. The human rights advocates who are most excited about this report also acknowledge that it won't carry much weight in the UN. Still, they acknowledge that it is an important starting point.
China, the North's major ally and main benefactor, stands ready to veto any attempt to mobilise the UN Security Council to open an investigation against North Korea, a non-signatory to the International Criminal Court.

"Nobody is as naive to think that this could mean change overnight, but it has to be this increased pressure, this ongoing look at and shining the light on what's going on inside North Korea that will eventually have an impact," Amnesty International's Rife said.

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