Friday, February 21, 2014

North Korea: New Evidence of Human Rights Abuses

It's long been known that North Korea isn't exactly a land of freedom and prosperity. However a report from U.N. investigators shows that North Korea has prison camps whose conditions rival those of Nazi concentration camps and Stalin's Gulags. These prisoners are guilty of crimes ranging from watching american soap operas to being related to an enemy of the state. During the 11 month investigation, over 320 witnesses were interviewed and the stories they told were horrifying to say the least. One woman was forced by guards to drown her newborn baby. Another prisoner was held down and forced to eat grass and dirt as a punishment. Kim Gwang-il, an escapee that spent two years in one of these camps, recounted his experience partially through a series of drawings found here. The drawings depict prisoners eating live rats and snakes that they caught in the fields out of desperation as well as brutal torture.The 400 page U.N. report concluded that North Korea is a state that "does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens' lives and terrorizes them from within." In spite of hundreds of witness accounts, the North Korean government continues to insist that there is no human rights abuses in their country. They claim that it is a hoax perpetrated for the sole purpose of sabotaging the socialist system. Currently, efforts to bring the North Korean government up on charges before the International Criminal Court are being blocked by China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of foreign affairs says that bringing up charges "won't help improve a country's human rights condition." The commission of inquiry was denied access to North Korea during the investigation. Their request to meet with experts on North Korea issues in Beijing was also denied by the Chinese government.

After reading about this from several sources, I am very skeptical about China and North Korea's claims. Even if you ignore the fact that there has been no response to the mountain of evidence that these human rights violations are real, the rhetoric used to deny the accusations is hugely suspect. North Korea is claiming a massive conspiracy orchestrated by the United States and other enemies of socialism. The U.N. is barely coordinated enough to do anything of substance, let alone orchestrate a conspiracy of this scale. Secondly, North Korea has a long history of blaming everything on capitalists, while they deprive their people of basic human dignity. Also, China's claim that bringing the North Korean government up on charges would have no effect on human rights doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'm the idiot, but I don't see how prosecuting the perpetrators of what borderlines on genocide could have anything but a positive effect of human rights.


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