Asia/Pacific

UN human rights expert calls on North Korea to shutter political prison camps

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A United Nations official charged with handling human rights in North Korea on Monday urged authorities in that country to shut down their political prison camps and called for the release of thousands of prisoners as well, Reuters reported

In a news conference on Monday, U.N. official Tomas Ojea Quintana told the media that an agency investigation in 2014 found that up to 120,000 people were held at prisoner camps.

“I have heard accounts that … the system, the political regime in North Korea, would not survive without the existence of political prison camps,” Ojea Quintana said at the news conference. “I really urge the leadership to continue to release prisoners especially those most vulnerable and ultimately of course I call for the dismantlement of these facilities.” 

Ojea Quintana also urged North Korean leaders to take responsibility for the crimes that were committed at the prison camps, Reuters reported. 

“Authorities in North Korea need to know they have to respond sooner or later for crimes being committed,” Ojea Quintana said. “In some political prisoner camps the prisons are being used for forced labour in coal mines and other kinds of mines.”

North Korean officials have denied the existence of their prisoner camps.

Ojea Quintana also urged North Korean officials to reopen their borders in an effort to aid workers and food imports, noting that self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has left many citizens facing “hunger and starvation.”

The official added that 40 percent of the country’s population still lacks adequate food supplies, Reuters noted.

Tags human rights violations North Korea United Nations
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