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North Korea

    June 08, 2018

    The near total denial of human rights in North Korea should not be ignored at next Tuesday’s historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Chairman Kim Jong-un, Amnesty International said.

    Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, commented:

    “Millions of people in North Korea continue to be denied their human rights, with up to 120,000 held in prison camps where they are at risk of torture, forced labour and executions. It would be deeply disappointing if the catastrophic human rights situation in North Korea is completely overlooked as diplomatic relations continue to thaw.”

    Last month, Amnesty International wrote to President Trump to outline the widespread, gross and systematic human rights violations in North Korea and highlight key areas to press Chairman Kim Jong-un on. These include:

    Prison Camps

    April 27, 2018
    North Korean Cheerleaders dressed in matching red outfits at the 2018 Olympics

    K-pop band Red Velvet performed to a packed theatre in Pyongyang with Kim Jong-un’s attendance earlier this month - they are the first South Korean singers to perform in North Korea in more than a decade. This is just one of a string of surprising moves North Korea has made recently, the most notable being a possible summit with Jong-un’s sparring partner Donald Trump. This thaw in relations might seem promising, but it is too early to tell if this is a permanent shift in policy or a fleeting moment.

    South Korean K-pop band Red Velvet perform in Pyongyang

    April 09, 2018

    The unexpected release of a North Korean woman widely expected to be sentenced to life in a political prison camp, offers a rare glimpse of hope that the authorities in the repressive state may be loosening their iron grip on the population.

    Koo Jeong-hwa, who was detained after she crossed the Chinese-Korean border with eight other people including her four-year-old son, was forcibly returned to North Korea by the Chinese authorities on 17 November 2017. She had been held in a detention centre in Hoeryeong City since then, accused of committing treason for leaving her country.

    Koo Jeong-hwa’s son was originally detained alongside her but was sent to his grandmother after 20 days because the detention facility said it could not take care of him. He was suffering from frostbite on his hands and feet. Though released from the detention centre, he was still at risk of being sent to a political prison camp with her had she been sentenced, due to the “guilt by association” practice in North Korea that often detains entire families of those found guilty.

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    April 29, 2016

    The government of North Korea must immediately disclose all details in the court case of U.S. citizen Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour for “spying,” in what appears to be yet another politically motivated decision, said Amnesty International today.

    Kim, a 62-year-old who was born in South Korea, is the latest foreigner to be sentenced to hard labour.

    “The timing of this sentence, amid increasing international tension, calls into question the motivation behind the proceedings. The judicial system is notoriously political, and foreign nationals in particular are very unlikely to receive a fair trial in the country, but few other details have been made public,” said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher of Amnesty International.

    “This entire trial has been shrouded in secrecy, and the North Korean authorities must present the evidence for these alleged crimes and make court proceedings fully transparent, so that the international community can see whether a fair trial took place. Otherwise, questions about these convictions will continue.”

    March 08, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT   9 March 2016

    Restrictions on communications compound North Korea’s dire human rights situation

    Ordinary North Koreans caught using mobile phones to contact loved ones who have fled abroad, risk being sent to political prison camps or other detention facilities as the government tightens its stranglehold on people’s use of communication technology, reveals Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    Connection Denied: Restrictions on Mobile Phones and Outside Information in North Korea, documents the intensified controls, repression and intimidation of the population since Kim Jung-un came to power in 2011.

    “To maintain their absolute and systematic control, the North Korean authorities are striking back against people using mobile phones to contact family abroad," said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2015

    The UN Security Council must send an unequivocal message to the North Korean authorities to end the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed in the country, when diplomats meet on Thursday to discuss the situation in the country, Amnesty International said.    

    The meeting in New York, marks only the second time the grave human rights situation in North Korea has been discussed at the Security Council.

    “The UN Security Council has a chance to show that the world has not forgotten about the victims of crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in North Korea, and that those responsible will face justice,” said Nicole Bjerler, Deputy Representative at Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

    “This meeting should serve as a wake-up call to the North Korean authorities to put an immediate end to the systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations that persist in the country. A starting point would be for them to cooperate with the UN and let independent human rights monitors into the country.”

    November 18, 2014

    A key UN vote has sent a clear message to the North Korean government that those responsible for crimes against humanity must face justice, Amnesty International said.

    On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly Third Committee in New York passed a resolution condemning North Korea for systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, that continue to be committed in the country.

    Nicole Bjerler, Amnesty International’s representative at the UN in New York commented:

    “UN Member States have today sent an unequivocal message to the North Korean government that those responsible for crimes against humanity in the country must face justice.

    “This is a landmark resolution in which the international community makes clear it stands with the victims of human rights violations in North Korea, where the gravity and nature of the abuses are without parallel in the modern world.

    November 18, 2014

    United Nations member states should vote in favor of a landmark resolution on the human rights situation in North Korea which seeks to advance justice for crimes against humanity, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights said today. The General Assembly will consider the resolution, which has been cosponsored by more than 50 UN members, in its third committee on November 18, 2014.

    June 06, 2014

    North Korean authorities must release all those detained solely for their religious beliefs, said Amnesty International, following reports that an American tourist has been arrested after he left a Bible at a hotel.

    The state news agency KCNA said the man had entered North Korea on 29 April and was detained when he tried to leave the country.
    “Leaving behind a Bible in a hotel room, whether by accident or by design, should never amount to a criminal offence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “There is also close to zero chance there would be a fair trial as North Korea’s court system makes a mockery of justice.”

    Reports of the latest arrest comes days after a South Korean missionary was sentenced to hard labour for life. Kim Jong-uk was convicted of spying and setting up an underground church, KCNA reported on Saturday.

    According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, countless numbers of nationals and foreigners have been severely punished as a result of their attempt to practice their religious beliefs.

    March 28, 2014

    A key UN vote has sent a clear message to the North Korean government that those responsible for crimes against humanity must face justice, said Amnesty International.

    The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a resolution on Friday condemning North Korea for systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, that continue to be committed in the country.  

    “This is a strong resolution and the message sent to the North Korean authorities could not be clearer. Crimes against humanity will not be tolerated and those responsible must face justice,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.  

    “The international community must build on this momentum and increase pressure on North Korea to end its incomprehensible crimes. Human rights must take centre stage at the UN Security Council when it considers peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.”

    The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority. China and five other countries voted against it and there were 11 abstentions.

    March 19, 2014
    By Salil Shetty, Special to CNN Original published for CNN

    The resounding victory for Kim Jong  Un in North Korea’s parliamentary elections this past week reflects the  “absolute support” of people in the country, according to state media.

    However, it’s doubtful such support includes the  hundreds of thousands of people – including children – that languish in  political prison camps and other detention facilities. Or those that have been the victims of  crimes against humanity as documented in a chilling U.N. report made  public last month.  Indeed, the  U.N. Commission of Inquiry report was unprecedented, stating: “The  gravity, scale and nature of these violations…does not have any parallel  in the contemporary world.”

    When  the full horror of the atrocities committed by North Korea against its own citizens was laid bare, support for the  Commission’s comprehensive findings was swift among many in the  international community. But such statements of support will not bring  to an end the systematic torture, executions,  rape, or forced labor inflicted upon North Koreans by their own  government. Nor will it ensure those responsible for these crimes  against humanity are brought to justice.

    February 17, 2014

    The United Nations Security Council must increase pressure on North Korea to address the horrific human rights situation in the country, Amnesty International said following publication of a damning UN report.

    “The gruesome reality of life in North Korea is laid bare in the Commission’s comprehensive report. The gravity and nature of human rights violations are off the scale,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    The UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea – tasked with investigating grave, systemic and widespread human rights violations in the country – published its final report on Monday.

    December 04, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 5 December 2013


    North Korea’s vast infrastructure of repression is further exposed in new satellite images showing the on-going development of two of the country’s largest political prison camps, Amnesty International discloses today.

    In a comprehensive assessments of camps 15 and 16 - known as kwanliso - Amnesty International found new housing blocks, an expansion of production facilities, and continued tight security.

    The analysis, along with newly released testimonies, is included in Amnesty International’s latest briefing North Korea: Continued Investment in the Infrastructure of Repression. 

    A former security official at kwanliso 16 – the largest political prison camp in North Korea – has never spoken publicly before. He describes detainees being forced to dig their own graves and women being raped and then disappearing.

    June 21, 2013

    A North Korean government ministry’s latest threat of harsh punishment against people leaving North Korea without permission renews concerns about freedom of movement in a country with a deplorable human rights record, Amnesty International said.

    On 19 June the state news agency published a statement by the Ministry of People’s Security of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), vowing to “take substantial measures to physically remove despicable human scum” who leave the country without permission – an act the government views as treason. The statement added “Sordid human scum will never be able to look up to the sky nor be able to find an inch of land to be buried after their death”.

    “Nobody should be detained, prosecuted or punished in any way simply for exercising their right to freedom of movement by leaving North Korea,” said Catherine Baber, Director of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Amnesty International.


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