North Korean justice system treats people as 'less than animals': HRW

20 Octobre, 2020, 15:24 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • North Korea's human rights treatment

The Human Rights Watch, the global nongovernment organization, shed further light on the rights conditions in the North with the report titled "Worth Less Than an Animal: Abuses and Due Process Violations in Pretrial Detention in North Korea".

Based on interviews with dozens of detainees and former officials, the extensive 88-page report by US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) focuses on the country's allegedly inhuman conditions at pretrial detention facilities.

"What we discovered is that people have a very good reason to fear pretrial detention", said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, at an online press conference for the report released Monday.

Not much is known about the legal processes in its pretrial detention system, but the experiences of those interviewed and the other evidence detailed below, show that torture, humiliation, coerced confessions, hunger, unhygienic conditions, and the necessity of connections and bribes to avoid the worst treatment appear to be fundamental characteristics.
Food consists of near-starvation rations, he added, and nearly all detainees are forced to provide hard labor.

North Korea's detention system drew major controversy in 2017, after American detainee Otto Warmbier returned to the U.S.in a coma in June of that year.

Former detainees said they had no way of knowing what would happen once they were arrested, had no access to an independent lawyer, and no way of appealing to authorities about torture or violations of the criminal procedure law.

Guards would take bribes to allow family members to bring in supplies.

One interviewee, a former government official named Yoon Young Cheol, told Human Rights Watch that he was detained and beaten severely before even being questioned.

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"They just beat me up for 30 minutes, they kicked me with their boots, and punched me with their fist, everywhere on my body", he said.

According to the accounts, detainees were forced to sit still in a certain posture - like kneeling or with their legs crossed and their hands on top of their laps - for up to 16 hours a day, or would get tortured for failing to do so. If a detainee moves, guards punish the detainee or order collective punishment for all detainees.

"Every single day was frightful, so painful and unbearable", said Park Ji Cheol, a former lumberjack who was arrested for smuggling.

Some women also reported instances of sexual assault and rape.

Kim said "her fate was in their hands and she was powerless to resist", according to the report.

Four former officials said that the government considered detainees to be inferior human beings, and therefore unworthy of direct eye contact with law enforcement officers.

In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea found that systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations committed by the government constituted crimes against humanity.

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