North Korea treats pretrial detainees worth less than animals says HRW report

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North Korea treats pretrial detainees worth less than animals says HRW report - We The World
Illustration of a North Korean pre-trial detention and investigation facility (kuryujang) based on former detainees’ testimonies told to Human Rights Watch and the illustrator's personal experience in detention. © 2020 Choi Seong Guk for Human Rights Watch

A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report revealed appalling treatment of detainees in North Korea pretrial camps which chronically lacks due legal process and is battered with systematic torture of humans worth less than animals.

The HRW report comes shortly after the nation, under the Kim-regime celebrated its 75th Worker’s party anniversary with a dramatic military parade and an emotional speech delivered by the country’s current dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Victims who were unfortunate enough to go through the country’s detention camps — meticulously hidden from purview — reported experiencing the worst possible torture, unpaid forced labor, and starving without any hope for bail, the new report states.

Former detainees whom Human Rights interviewed reported abysmal treatments, including no access to independent lawyers, and no way to appeal authorities about the brutal treatment inflicted on them. Female detainees reported sexual attempts, assaults, and rape.

People in the criminal detention camps are held captive in prisons, are forced to sit on the floor days-after-days in terrible postures — legs crossed, hands-on lap, head forced down, and eyes on the floor.

Former government officials told HRW that the ruling Workers Party believes detainees are inferior humans are therefore not fit to look eye-to-eye with the government officials.

Calling the country’s criminal justice system ‘opaque’ the 88-page report, Worth Less Than an Animal’: Abuses and Due Process Violations in Pretrial Detention in North Korea,” details the failed political and justice system of North Korea under the Worker’s Party.

HRW interviewed eight former government workers and 22 North Koreans – 15 women and 7 men – who were held in the detention camps since 2011.

“North Korea’s pretrial detention and investigation system is arbitrary, violent, cruel, and degrading,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

Apart from the terrifying torture, detainees also reported of unhealthy and unhygienic conditions inside the cells, with very little place to move, overcrowding, no soap or scope to bathe, no supply of proper menstrual hygiene and food.

The conditions inside the cells are so unhealthy, the detainees would get covered with bedbugs, lice, and fleas. On-duty guards at times would allow friends and families to supply food and other stuff in return for bribes.

North Korea, known as the Hermit Kingdom, is one of the most secretive and draconian regimes that ever existed in human history and is known for its aggressive political control where even disagreeing with the governemnt can lead to public executions.

North Koreans say they live in constant fear of being caught in a system where official procedures are usually irrelevant, guilt is presumed, and the only way out is through bribes and connections,” Adams said in a statement.

Laced with wide-ranging sanctions by the UN for its nuclear arsenal, and crime against humanity, the regime has, yet successfully continued to develop its nuclear power despite the economic restrictions.

Despite chronic poverty in the state, where the majority of its 25 million people living in decapitated conditions, Kim Jong-Un has been pursuing improving the nation’s arms.

The situation of NK is the polar opposite to its Southern counterpart which is a sprawling nation with skyrocketing economic progress and global cultural and industrial authority.

“The government should also improve abysmal detention and prison conditions and ensure basic standards of hygiene, health care, nutrition, clean water, clothing, floor space, light, and heat,” HRW said in the report.

A handful of organizations reveal the monstrous treatments of people in the nation through secretive paid spies in North Korea, like NK News which operates from overseas and deliver insider stories on the state and its affairs.

Another organization, based out of Seoul called Liberty in North Korea helps NK citizens willing to escape the regime come out of the nation’s heavily armed frontiers through secret passages.

“Some guards made us put our face between the bars or hit our fingers through the bars with a stick or with the gun. If they were really upset, they’d come into the cell and beat us. This happened every day, if not in our cell in the others, we could hear it, it was to maintain tension.…,” a former NK guard said, who left the nation in 2017, after being detained many times for trying to escape to the South.

It is illegal for regular North Koreans to leave the country, and those who try are among the ones detained in the pretrial camps where animalistic treatments await.

The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” 

The United Nations said in its 2013 report by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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