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Report tells of rights violations in N Korea

Investigation by UN reveals torture, rape and murder inside labour camps where political prisoners are held.

Last updated: 17 Feb 2014 04:20
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The UN is set to release a detailed report on human rights violations in North Korea that will include the testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, the UK-based rights organisation.

The testimonies include powerful and disturbing accounts that tell of torture, rape and murder inside the country's labour camps where political prisoners are held.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea was set up last March to begin building a case for possible criminal prosecution.

"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.

However, defectors from the country and experts are deeply sceptical the exercise will have any effect on the North Korean regime as any attempt to follow up after the final report is issued on Monday is likely to be blocked by China.

North Korea denies crimes against humanity are taking place in the country and labels any criticism of its rights record as a US-led conspiracy.

'Unspeakable atrocities'

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.

Michael Kirby, a former chief justice of Australia who chairs the independent inquiry, said after preliminary findings last year that inmates in North Korea's prison camps suffered "unspeakable atrocities", comparable with Nazi abuses uncovered after World War II. 

More than 200,000 people are believed to be held in North Korean prison camps, according to independent estimates.

The UN panel has worked to bring new attention to the allegations of horror at North Korea's labour camps with evidence and testimony from exiles, including camp survivors, in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington but has failed to gain access to North Korea.

After more than two years in power, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shows no signs of changing the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors, forging ahead with tough policies and ordering the execution of his powerful uncle following a public purge.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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