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Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.Drawings submitted to COI by former prisoner Mr Kim Kwang-il.downloaded from .
There really aren't words to describe it. Torture, starvation, forced abortion, rape, execution: accurate all, but painfully inadequate to describe the horrors documented for the very first time in a report released this past week by the United Nations.

The sketch above is called the "Pidgeon Torture."  The one below is called the "Crane, Aeroplane and Motorcycle Torture."

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.Drawings submitted to COI by former prisoner Mr Kim Kwang-il.downloaded from .

And this one shows how prisoners were forced to haul corpses to the crematorium.
Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.Drawings submitted to COI by former prisoner Mr Kim Kwang-il.downloaded from .
These and five other sketches are published in this week's Economist and are based on the memories of Kim Gwang-il. Mr. Kim, a North Korean who spent more than two years in a kwanliso prison camp, eventually escaped through China and Thailand to South Korea. His sketches show graphic depictions of skeletal bodies forced to endure stress torture and to eat rats and snakes to survive.

But that's just the beginning. Mr. Kim was just one of nearly 80 witnesses who testified publicly before the Commission of Inquiry established in March, 2013 by the United Nations Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights.  Another 240 victims were interviewed confidentially, fearful of reprisals to family members still living in what is formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Commission's 400-page report is staggering in its breadth and detail. Click past the break and take a look behind the veil of terror that shrouds life in North Korea. But I warn you: it's not pretty.

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.Drawings submitted to COI by former prisoner Mr Kim Kwang-il.downloaded from .
Prisoners Eating Snakes and Rats

In March of last year, the UN's Human Rights Council, convened a Commission of Inquiry
to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular, for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
In the following months, the COI took public testimony from live witnesses and conducted private interviews that documented in great detail the unspeakable atrocities committed by a near-totalitarian regime. Indeed,

[t]he gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world. [] These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.
The UN report included the following map of the prison system, as well as various satellite images. The satellite photo of Kwanliso No. 25 near Chongjin, is here.
The Economist piece estimates between 80,000 and 120,000 people are imprisoned in these camps, and notes that they are usually members of one of three groups: people trying to flee the country, Christians and those promoting other “subversive” beliefs, or political prisoners.

The UN report is written by a three-member UN panel headed by Michael Kirby, an Australian former judge, and it is extraordinary in the fierceness of its condemnation.  Mr. Kirby told journalists North Korea was comparable to "Nazi Germany," and the report itself urges the UN to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for prosecution for war crimes. In a letter sent directly to Kim Jong Un, the North’s dictator, the commission warned that he could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

For all its might, though, the COI may well just be a paper tiger. For all the Sturm und Drang in the COI report, not even Judge Kirby seems to advocate war to stop further atrocities. And China, as a permanent member of the UN's Security Council, can veto any referral to the ICC.

China certainly has no reason to call attention to human rights abuses. As The Economist noted, Beijing has blood on its hands, too.

Equally striking is the [report's] indictment directed by the COI at China. Chinese leaders refused to let the commission visit its border provinces with North Korea and have opposed the commission’s inquiry from the start. They too received a critical letter from the commission, suggesting that they are “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity”. Refugees are routinely rounded up inside China and returned to North Korea, often to face imprisonment, torture and even execution.
The horrors of this story speak for themselves; summary does not do them justice. The video of the press conference announcing the report can be found here. The 36-page summary of the report, here, and the 400-page detailed report, here.

The Commission of Inquiry is scheduled to present its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 25th regular session in Geneva on 17 March 2014.

Originally posted to recoveringConservative on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 04:56 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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