UN report: North Korea punishes political prisoners with forced abortion, among other atrocities

A UN Commission of Inquiry released a 372-page report today after a year-long investigation.
Mon Feb 17, 2014 - 7:39 pm EST

GENEVA, February 17, 2014 ( – A UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea has found that the regime of dictator Kim Jong-un has committed "unspeakable atrocities" against its citizens, including arbitrary imprisonment and execution, deliberate starvation, torture, rape and forced abortion.

Head of the Commission Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge, said at a press conference in Geneva today that the 372-page report is the result of a year-long investigation that was based on the testimony of defectors given at hearings held in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

The Commission's report describes North Korea's human rights abuses as "systematic and widespread violations … committed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials," and states that, "In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the commission constitute crimes against humanity."

Addressing China's role in the abuses suffered by North Koreans, the Commission found that "persons who are forcibly repatriated from China are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortion and other forms of sexual violence."

The report calls this "the denial of reproductive rights." China, it said, should observe the international legal principle of “non-refoulement,” which protects victims of persecution from being forcibly returned to their persecutors.

Moreover, the commission said, "China should raise with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and other high-level authorities the issues of abductions, the infanticide of children entitled to Chinese nationality, forced abortions imposed on repatriated women and other human rights violations that target persons repatriated from China."

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The commission cited estimates of 10,000 to 25,000 children born illegally of Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers. "The status of most of these children appears to be effectively stateless, as the Chinese families have been discouraged from registering such children because of the illegal status of their mothers," the report said.

Kirby likened the atrocities committed in North Korea to those of the brutal Nazi regime during the Second World War.

"These are not mere excesses of the state: they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," he said, adding that the publication of the report gives no excuse for inaction. "Now the international community does know. There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn't know. It's too long now. The suffering and the tears of the people of North Korea demand action."

In a letter to Kim Jong-un published by The Guardian, Kirby told him that the full text of the report of the Commission of Inquiry will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva and that the UN will refer the situation in his country to the International Criminal Court "to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity referred to in this letter and in the Commission's report."

North Korea refused to cooperate with the Commission, nor allow any investigators to visit the country or provide any information to the inquiry.

North Korea's diplomatic mission in Geneva immediately rejected the Commission's findings, calling them "a product of politicization of human rights on the part of EU and Japan in alliance with the US hostile policy."

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