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UN ‘wants North Korean regime crimes punished’

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(BBC) A year-long UN inquiry into rights abuses in North Korea is expected to urge punishment for systematic violations by the state.

In a report due to be published, a panel of experts mandated by the UN’s Human Rights Council said North Koreans had suffered “unspeakable atrocities”.

The panel heard evidence of torture, enslavement, sexual violence, severe political repression and other crimes.

North Korea has rejected the report’s conclusions.

The findings are expected to include recommending an inquiry by an international court or tribunal.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the report is likely to be one of the most detailed and devastating ever published by the United Nations.

Testimony to the panel has included 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.

The full report is expected to contain hundreds of pages of further evidence of a nationwide policy of control through terror, says our correspondent.

North Korea “categorically and totally rejects” the report into its human rights record, it said in a two-page statement sent to Reuters from its diplomatic mission in Geneva.

“The DPRK [North Korea] once again makes it clear that the ‘human rights violations’ mentioned in the so-called ‘report’ do not exist in our country.”

The Associated Press (AP) quoted from a leaked version of the panel’s report, which accuses the regime of taking decisions aimed at maintaining its own rule “in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population”.

For years, North Korean defectors have detailed harrowing accounts of life under the brutally repressive Kim dynasty.

They describe how the regime keeps tens of thousands of political prisoners in camps, and divides the population up in terms of presumed loyalty to the regime.

Civilians live under a system of neighbourhood surveillance where they are encouraged to denounce each other, according to defectors.

Although this information has been in the public domain for years, the panel’s inquiry is the highest-profile international attempt to investigate the claims. North Korea declined to participate in the panel’s investigation.

Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer who has campaigned to stop crimes against humanity in North Korea, said the findings were both ground-breaking and unremarkable.

“They’re ground-breaking in that it’s the first time that the United Nations as an institution has found that crimes against humanity are being committed against the people of North Korea,” he said.

“Of course, it puts a huge burden on the United Nations to then take the next set of steps.

“But of course it’s also unremarkable in the sense that those of us who have worked on North Korea human rights for many, many years are aware of the sheer weight of evidence coming out of North Korea over decades now… And so the real question now is, what next?”

According to AP, the document will conclude that the testimony and other information it received “merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice”.

However, China would be likely to block any attempt to refer the North to the International Criminal Court.

And an ad-hoc tribunal, like those set up for Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Cambodia, would appear unlikely without co-operation from elements within the country.

The panel will formally present its findings next month, when the Human Rights Council will decide which recommendations to support.

North Korea promotes key military officials

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Chief of missile unit and other army officials promoted as North Korea marks the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il.

North Korea has announced the promotion of several key military officials to coincide with the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim Rak-gyom, the commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Rocket Force Command, was promoted to colonel general at the order of the country’s current leader Kim Jong-un, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported late Saturday, according to AFP news agency.

The unit is in charge of the country’s mid- and long-range missiles programme.

Dozens of other senior military officials were also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and major general, the KCNA said. The latest round of military promotions – often announced on key political anniversaries – came as the North celebrated Jong-Il’s birthday on Sunday.

“Everybody, let’s rally around the party centre led by the great leader Kim Jong-un and robustly fight… to complete the revolution!” the ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-Nam said in a speech as thousands of party and military officials convened in the capital Pyongyang to pledge loyalty to Jong-un, television footage showed.

The country marks the birthdays of both late leaders – Jong-il’s on February 16 and his father Kim Il-sung’s on April 15 – as major national holidays.

Jong-un, as well as top army and party cadres, also visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in the capital to pay tribute to the embalmed bodies of his father and grandfather, the KCNA said.

The Kim family has ruled the communist state for more than six decades. Jong-il, who died of a heart attack in December 2011, was succeeded by his son Jong-un.

South Korea and the US have announced that their annual military drills will take place from 24 February to 18 April, despite anger from North Korea.

Pyongyang warned against the planned drills last week, calling them “exercises of war”.

Meanwhile, the US said it was disappointed that the North rescinded an invitation to a US envoy to discuss the release of a jailed US citizen.

Kenneth Bae has been held in North Korea for more than a year.

In a statement on Monday, the joint Combined Forces Command (CFC) said that Key Resolve, a computer-based simulation, and Foal Eagle, which involves air, ground and naval drills, were both scheduled to begin on 24 February.

“Key Resolve is a vital exercise to strengthen readiness of the Republic of Korea and US Alliance,” CFC commander Gen Curtis Scaparrotti said.

“The scenarios are realistic, enabling us to train on our essential tasks and respond to any crisis which may arise.”

Last year, the exercises led to a prolonged surge in tensions, with North Korea threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes and cutting a military hotline with the South.

North Korea’s top military body threatened last week to cancel planned family reunions with the South if the joint military exercises went ahead.

The reunions are for family members separated when the Korean peninsula was partitioned at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. However, the North has been accused of using them as a bargaining chip.

South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said on Monday: “North Korea is well aware that the South Korean-US drills are annual trainings defensive in nature.”

“So it is not appropriate to link [the drills] with family reunions.”

‘Special amnesty’

Separately, on Sunday, the US said it was “deeply disappointed” North Korea had decided to withdraw its invitation to US envoy Robert King for talks on jailed US citizen Kenneth Bae.

Kenneth Bae appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang, 20 January 2014
Kenneth Bae has been held in North Korea since November 2012

The military exercises were “in no way linked to Mr Bae’s case”, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“We again call on the DPRK [North Korea] to grant Bae special amnesty and immediate release as a humanitarian gesture,” she added.

North Korea also cancelled a request from Mr King to visit last August to discuss Mr Bae.

US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has offered to travel to North Korea for talks instead, Ms Psaki said.

Mr Bae, a Korean-American, was arrested in North Korea in November 2012.

Pyongyang said he used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government, and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in May.

Mr Bae is currently believed to be in a labour camp.

His family say he has several health complaints including diabetes and liver problems.

American Kenneth Bae now in North Korea labor camp

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp, the State Department said on Friday.

Agency spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the United States was “deeply concerned” by the development.

“We also remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae’s health” and again urged Pyongyang to grant him “special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” she said.

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason, along North Korea’s northeastern coast.

A devout Christian and father of three operated a China-based company specializing in tours of North Korea, according to his family and freekennow.com, a website that friends set up to promote his release.

The North Korean government accused Bae of planning to bring down the government through religious activities.

Last month, he told reporters that he had committed a “serious crime” in the secretive nation and that he had not experienced abusive treatment by the regime.

Any statement by Bae in captivity would be sanctioned by the North Korean government.

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