By Gudrun Schultz

PYONGYANG, North Korea, October 2, 2006 ( – Pregnant women imprisoned under the communist regime in North Korea routinely face forced abortions, a recent report by a South Korean lawyers’ association stated, in the first report the group has released on human rights conditions in The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The survey conducted by the Korean Bar Association relied on two years of data collection and interviews with 100 North Koreans who had defected to the South after 2000, the Korean Times reported.

According to statements by defectors, 57.7 percent indicated they had witnessed or heard of imprisoned pregnant women who were forced to have abortions.Â

Human rights groups have alleged for years that forced abortion and infanticide are common practices inside North Korean prisons, basing the charges on the reports by defectors. The communist government has consistently denied the charges.

In 2005 the Office of the United Nations High commissioner for Human Rights included forced abortion and infanticide in its 2005 report on human rights violations in North Korea.

The report identified the “[c]ontinued violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, in particular the trafficking of women for prostitution or forced marriage, ethnically motivated forced abortions, including by labour inducing injection or natural delivery, as well as infanticide of children of repatriated mothers, including in police detention centres and labour training camps.”

The lawyer’s report on human rights violations also confirmed the routine use of torture and sleep deprivation by North Korean authorities against prisoners. Twenty-two percent of those questioned had undergone sleep deprivation during questioning, or had heard reports of sleep deprivation from others. Widespread torture was reported by 21.1 percent. Sexual harassment, beatings and abusive language were also frequent occurrences.

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