APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum from Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Letter from the Parliamentary Officer,
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, to Sir Patrick Cormack MP
I am writing to you concerning severe human
rights violations in North Korea. In my job as Parliamentary Officer
for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), I encounter many examples
of persecution and human rights abuses. However, those that have
emerged from North Korea over the last couple of years have been
the worst that I have come across.
Until recently it was very difficult to obtain
accurate and reliable information from North Korea concerning
the extent and nature of the human rights violations. However,
over the last couple of years, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
has conducted a number of fact-finding visits to the region and
has interviewed around 50 North Koreans. This has provided a large
amount of reliable evidence for what is going on inside the country.
The evidence makes for disturbing reading. The
summary report that we have produced notes that "Human rights
are repressed at every level in North Korea . . . The practice
of torture and violations of the right to life . . . appear to
be frequent and systematic." The brutal treatment of prisoners
in the prison camps is particularly vicious.
We were hoping that the Foreign Affairs Select
Committee might be able to address the issue of the major human
rights violations in North Korea. With North Korea being named
by President Bush as being part of the "axis of evil",
it is likely that the committee will be looking at the country
in that context on an ongoing basis. We hoped that the remit might
be extended to include examination of the internal human rights
violations in North Korea, as they are so extreme.
I enclose a copy of our briefing on the human
rights situation in North Korea. I hope that you will find it
useful and informative.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
26 November 2002
Human Rights in North Korea
1. CSW has conducted interviews with around
50 North Koreans in 4 countries over the last two years to ascertain
the situation of human rights in North Korea.
2. Interviews have been carried out at the
China border with North Korea, South East Asia, South Korea and
3. Those interviewed include individuals
who have been imprisoned and also those who have been responsible
for imprisonment and torture.
4. Alongside these interviews, CSW has worked
with and talked to numerous individuals and organisations working
with North Koreans, as well as diplomatic staff and those who
have worked inside the country.
5. CSW has also used medical examination,
psychiatric analysis and expert medical advice in analysing evidence.
6. Without a doubt, the consistent evidence
of egregious human rights abuses presents a prima facie
case against North Korea. In the absence of co-operation by the
North Korean regime in allowing investigation, the natural conclusion
is that North Korea is in very serious violation of human rights
obligations, requiring that the situation be addressed in strong
and urgent terms.
7. The following comments form a general
survey of the situation. There are obviously local variations
in practice and other variations depending on personnel and circumstances.
Nevertheless there are many similar accounts from witnesses interviewed
at different times and locations.
8. Human rights are repressed at every level
in North Korea. Lack of the rule of law and arbitrary treatment
create a culture of repression and fear. The practice of torture
and violations of the right to life, physical integrity and due
process appear to be frequent and systematic.
9. Control of society is extensive and intrusive,
with constant projection of propaganda, close surveillance and
very harsh suppression of any action or statement deemed to indicate
a lack of total support for the regime. Thus freedom of expression
and religion are strictly controlled and even freedom of thought
is repressed. Freedom of movement, assembly and association are
all strictly curtailed.
10. North Koreans do not generally see themselves
as suffering as harshly as one might expect in a society with
such severe repression of human rights. They generally consider
themselves to be living in a relatively civilized society. This
attitude can be attributed to the traditional, subservient nature
of society, the all-pervading propaganda and brainwashing and
the long-term isolation from outside influence and information.
11. The propaganda has successfully inculcated
respect and appreciation for the leaders. The sense that North
Korea is always on alert against "the enemy" also engenders
a sense of nationalism that vitiates much of the unrest that might
otherwise find expression. With no alternative system conceivable
to them, North Koreans show remarkable support for the regime,
despite abuse, famine and poverty. Respect for Kim Il Sung remains
high, although there appears to be a degree of discontent regarding
Kim Jong Il's leadership. However, such concerns would rarely
find any form of expression as informants are prevalent throughout
12. Those who are deemed to be less than
entirely supportive or loyal citizens are subject to swift and
harsh penalties. Those singled out for punishment include, amongst
others, those seen to have any sympathy or links with South Korea
and those with religious beliefs.
13. It is not possible to present a truly
systematic picture of punishment. Although clear trends emerge
from the evidence gathered, there are differences in treatment
due to varying local practices, individual relationships and responses.
Nevertheless there are specific penalties which are mentioned
frequently. As such the following details are given as generalisations.
They are based on evidence from victims and perpetrators of human
rights abuses, but by necessity present a simplistic impression
of the situation.
14. North Koreans live with the knowledge
that if they are deemed to be unworthy citizens or to be connected
to someone who has in some way offended the system, they will
be taken from their homes, often at night and with their whole
family, and will disappear from society. North Koreans regularly
refer to this phenomenon and cite incidents of those they knew
who were taken away and never seen again. Witnesses believed that
those involved were either taken away to be held in long-term
detention, such as in a prison camp, or were killed.
15. The standard practice appears to be
that those suspected of `political crimes' (including minor actions
which are interpreted as showing insufficient respect) are detained
and interrogated by the State Security Agency (SSA). Some detainees
describe being held at three levels of the SSA system, namely,
central government, province and district or city levels.
16. Interrogation routinely involves many
forms of brutal and horrific torture. Evidence obtained includes
accounts of three different types of water torture, severe beatings,
sexual assault and violation, as well as psychological and verbal
abuse. Sleep deprivation is a common tactic, which both victims
and torturers have commented is especially effective in interrogation.
In some serious cases this is induced through water torture where
sleep is impossible without drowning. Other cruel treatment includes
suspending detainees by their wrists from the ceiling or from
bars, using blocks, guns, holsters, metal poles and wooden pokers,
as well as fists and boots, to inflict terrible pain and injuries,
and the insertion of objects into the body, including the vagina.
17. Even outside the torture rooms, violence
can be fierce. Those in the cells who are deemed to be moving
without permission have been forced to put their hands through
the bars of the door, where the guard mercilessly beats or stamps
on them until they are bleeding and the skin is shredded. A prisoner
detained for a minor offence described the condition of one of
his fellow inmates who had been placed in a special punishment
chamber. He described the man as looking completely black where
he still had skin, but that much of his skin on his face was missing,
and all he could see were his eyes. The man was still alive, though
barely clinging to his life.
18. After the interrogation and torture
in the SSA detention facilities a decision is made as to which
form of punishment will be imposed. No case was heard in which
a person accused of a political crime was released from detention
after this process of interrogation.
19. In some cases a form of trial was implemented.
In other cases there was no such procedure, nor even an official
charge. Where trials were held they were simply rituals in which
the defendant had no effective rights to present his case, wholly
lacking the ingredients of a fair trial and due process.
20. After interrogation, and possible trial,
political prisoners who are not executed will be sent to a detention
facility from which they will probably never emerge, even in death.
These secret prisons are distinct from those used for non-political
criminals and take a number of forms, including tightly controlled,
overcrowded prisons and detention settlement camps, which are
large areas surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers.
21. The conditions in both the prisons and
camps are brutal, the cruelty only defined by the parameters of
the creativity of the guards. Conditions for all prisoners are
inhuman, with severe under-nourishment, appalling sanitary conditions
and long hours of gruelling labour. Prisoners are deformed as
a result of the abuse, malnutrition and hard and dangerous work.
One guard described his first sighting of prisoners in amazement
that such creatures, who were all disabled and deformed, could
still move around and be working.
22. It is a notable characteristic of accounts
about the prisoners that they are not referred to as humans, but
rather are viewed as sub-human and beasts. The guards and torturers
are trained not to see the prisoners as humans and profess to
no feelings of compassion or identification with the prisoners,
whom they view as enemies, unworthy of life. The prisoners themselves
describe how their initial impression is that the other prisoners
look like beasts and that they find that the only way to survive
is to forget that one is human and act like an animal seeking
23. Torturers are selected for their cruelty
in tests of increasing barbarity. Only those who will inflict
the greatest pain on their victims and show the least compassion
will be selected. Those who show any humanity or sympathy for
a prisoner are liable to be demoted or punished themselves. Sexual
liaison between prisoners and guards is strictly forbidden, as
it would involve recognition of the woman as a human. Alongside
rape of women prisoners, guards do sometimes form relations with
female prisoners. If found out, the prisoner will be brutally
punished and the guard will also be penalised.
24. Offenders who are not executed, but
are deemed guilty of serious political crimes are liable to be
sent to a prison where they will be held under strict control
in overcrowded conditions and forced to work gruelling hours in
attached factories. They will not be allowed contact with their
family and cannot hope to ever emerge from the camp, either dead
or alive. According to information from one witness, young children
are also interned in such prisons, but are not allowed any contact
with their mothers, who, heartbreakingly, can see them but not
meet their needs for food and warmth.
25. Prisoners are violently mistreated and
are subject to daily verbal and physical abuse, cruelty and arbitrary
treatment. Work in the factories is gruelling, deforming and dangerous.
The slightest mistake can result in the harshest of punishments
and prisoners often die due to the violence, overwork, malnutrition
and unsanitary conditions. Prisoners deemed to have committed
a serious offence may be sent to a punishment chamber. These are
little rooms, measuring around 2 « x 2 « x 3 «.
Being sent to a punishment chamber is seen in some prisons as
a death sentence, as internment can be too much for a weakened
prisoner to endure. Even though they may survive the detention,
they may be so weakened that they cannot live for long afterwards.
Others come out paralysed from the waist down after being held
in the chamber during winter. Prisoners are not able to contest
such punishments, and have no defence against the arbitrary cruel
treatment of the guards.
26. Living conditions in the prisons are
barbaric with prisoners fed on starvation rations. This constant
hunger has been described as worse than being beaten. Prisoners
are kept in horrifically unsanitary conditions, crammed into overcrowded
cells where they may not even be able to lie down straight. They
are deprived of sleep and given minimal clothing, even in the
cold extremes of North Korea's mountain regions.
27. Others are sent to detention settlement
camps. These are large areas, from which escape is virtually impossible.
Prisoners live in appalling inhumane conditions in groups of sheds
which are clustered together into what would equate to a village.
The camps have different levels of severity and there are often
different sections within the camps. For example, in one camp,
prisoners will be separated from their families, and in another
section of the camp, or another camp, prisoners will be able to
live together with their family.
28. Certain areas are designated re-socialisation
areas, where a prisoner is still considered to have a chance of
being re-integrated into society. Those held in the other parts
of the camp are deemed to be unworthy of such re-integration.
Those in the former class are subject to re-education, whereas
those held in the other categories of prison and prison camp are
regarded as being beyond reform.
29. Prisoners in the camps have to work
long gruelling hours, are fed with minimum rations and are subjected
to terrible abuse and arbitrary treatment. They have no rights
(other than a poorly protected right not to be arbitrarily killed
unless they show insubordination) and are at the mercy of the
guards, who misuse and abuse them at will. Sanitary conditions
are appalling, with insufficient toilet facilities, no provision
for washing and no soap or laundry powder. A prisoner will have
one set of clothes and so if they are able to wash them they will
have to wear them while they dry, even in freezing conditions.
Female prisoners are not even given sanitary towels, so those
who still menstruate will just bleed while they work.
30. Although they are not watched over by
the guards as fully as those in the harshest prisons, detainees
lives are fully controlled and all their choices are at the whim
of the guards. Although families are allowed to live together
in certain conditions, reproduction among these groups is generally
prevented, either directly or through control of working hours.
Freedom for a couple to marry might be given as a very occasional
reward to encourage prisoners to work very hard. Other prisoners
are denied this basic right. Even in the very rare event that
marriage is permitted, it is often the case that the couple are
rarely able to see each other because of the way their work schedule
31. The targeting of families is a particularly
insidious aspect of the system. In the majority of cases described,
prisoners' families were taken into custody at the same time as
the "offender". Thus children may grow up and spend
all their lives in the camps, never knowing life outside these
32. Another punishment for those deemed
to be inadequate citizens is exile to cold harsh mountainous areas
where making a living is harder than elsewhere in North Korea.
Tactics of denial of access to means of livelihood and withholding
aid from such areas are used by the regime to repress those judged
to be opposition classes.
33. A number of accounts have been received
describing experimentation on political prisoners. It is believed
that the Third Bureau carries out human experiments and that they
use political prisoners for their activities. Witnesses who described
chemical experimentation on political prisoners talked about experimentation
being carried out on animals at first and then on humans. Eye-witness
evidence was received describing how seven political prisoners,
including an elderly couple, a man in his twenties and a couple
and their two children, aged ten and seven, were taken into gas
chambers. The gas in the first chamber caused extreme agony and
that in the second chamber killed them. Even in the midst of such
horror and agony, the mother was still holding her youngest child
to her very tightly.
34. Even internment in prison is not the
worst punishment for those deemed guilty of political or other
crimes. Executioneither arbitrary or plannedis part
of the functioning of the prisons and camps, but is also used
outside the camps.
35. North Koreans frequently refer to witnessing
executions. Psychological assessment of North Koreans reveals
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they describe nightmares where
they see executions re-enacted.
36. Descriptions of the executions often
depict a similar scene. Typically, eye-witnesses see victims,
who have obviously been tortured, dragged out in front of an assembled
crowd. The victims are prevented from speaking by a stone which
has been thrust into their mouths. In some cases a formal hearing/enactment
takes place, where the crime is read out and witnesses recount
the event. There are no opportunities for the `defendant' to speak.
In reality it would appear that these are not so much public hearings
as public spectacles, and the witnesses are not so much giving
evidence as denouncing the victim in an attempt to distance themselves
from the crime in order to avoid their own punishment.
37. Most accounts describe the victims being
tied to a pole with three strips or ropes or wires. There are
often three marksmen who each shoot three shots at the ropes,
one at the head, one at the heart and one at the stomach. A number
of witnesses commented that the victim would fall progressively
forward at each shot as the ropes were broken, until at the last
shot he would fall to the ground.
38. Other forms of execution are used and
the number of marksmen and shots vary. Other forms of securing
the prisoner have also been described. One eyewitness related
how victims were secured to crucifix shaped structures with six
strips, one around the chest, one around the waist and two on
the shoulders and wrists.
39. The crimes were often simple efforts
to secure food, such as stealing a cow or exchanging public property
to obtain food.
40. Religious freedom is harshly repressed
in North Korea. North Koreans systematically report that being
a Christian in the country is viewed as a very serious crime.
Kim Il Sung has been exalted and is revered as a god to be followed
with unswerving obedience. Faith in a greater power is ruthlessly
repressed and the word for God has been banned in North Korea.
Many North Koreans become Christians when they leave the country
and they consistently refer to the remarkable parallels between
how they were required to worship the leaders and how they worship
41. Believers are not free to form fellowships.
Surveillance and informing is so widespread that meeting together
would be fraught with danger. Even parents often do not allow
their children to know of their faith, as teachers ask the children
questions to make them unwittingly inform on their parents. All
those who lived outside Pyongyang said they had never seen a church
or even a Bible before leaving the country. Although there are
three churches in the capital, many accounts indicate that these
exist as show churches.
42. A number of North Koreans described
cases where those believed to be Christians, and their families,
had disappeared. Although North Korea had a strong Christian presence
in the past, most Christians fled when it was still possible or
have since been martyred. It is known that there are Christians
in the prison camps. A number of accounts state that they are
treated particularly harshly in the camps. Even the prisoners
ostracise the Christians since, due to propaganda, they consider
them to be psychologically impaired. One prisoner described a
special village of Christians' families within a camp. Others
describe witnessing Christians being ordered to recant their faith
and being publicly or arbitrarily executed.
43. Execution has been particularly commonly
referred to as the punishment for those North Koreans who return
from China having had contact with Christians or with South Koreans.
A number of eyewitnesses have described such executions, with
several of these incidents taking place in Musan and Onsong.
44. Others who leave the country illegally
and then return are subject to interrogation and punishment. It
appears that returnees who are caught are liable to be interrogated
by the State Security Agency to see whether they fall into one
of the categories of particularly serious offenders. Men and women
are stripped and women are made to squat and stretch repeatedly
in order to show that they do not have money hidden in their vagina.
Those detained typically describe being held in a crowded cell
where they are not allowed to move without permission. Those who
are found to be moving are subject to harsh beatings and punishment.
Guards will at times refuse permission to go to the toilet. Excrement
is checked to see whether the detainee has swallowed money.
45. Women who have become pregnant in China
are especially targeted in detention. According to a number of
reports from those detained with such women, all women found to
be pregnant by a Chinese man are taken for forced abortion. North
Korean officials say that they do not want any `Chinks' and make
derogatory and insulting comments about sleeping with Chinese
men. (Many women have no choice as they are picked up by men posing
as helpers when they reach China. They are then taken to a house
where, unknown to them, they are sold as brides, after which they
often endure horrific sexual and physical abuse, even being locked
up and rented out as the man's property.) Witnesses spoke of women
detained with them who were pregnant being taken away and coming
back without their baby, complaining of the heartbreak, pain and
abuse of having a forced abortion. One witness described how she
personally saw a prisoner giving birth to a baby and the nurses
cutting the umbilical cord and then smothering the baby with a
46. Despite its obligations as a party to
the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and
its 1967 Protocol, China consistently refuses to acknowledge the
existence of refugees from North Korea and refuses the UNHCR access
to the border area to make an independent assessment. The evidence
from those escaping North Korea and those who have endured punishment
as a result clearly indicates that the 1951 convention provides
protection to North Koreans. Nevertheless, China continues its
blanket policy of refusing asylum applications and repatriating
all North Koreans, in violation of its obligations, including
those under article 33 which protects against refoulement.
47. North Koreans endure terrible fear and
abuse in China as a result of having to live in hiding from the
authorities. Treatment of those caught and held in China prior
to repatriation can be very cruel. Eyewitness accounts describe
North Koreans being attached to each other with wire passed through
their wrists or noses before repatriation.
48. The situation at the Chinese border
with North Korea is very tense at present. There has been a severe
clampdown and large numbers of North Koreans have been repatriated.
Those helping North Koreans by providing shelter or assistance
in leaving the country have also been targeted, with a number
of foreign missionaries being detained and subjected to harsh
treatment in China. There have been many reports, especially in
July this year, of the Chinese authorities offering bounties for
information on the whereabouts of North Koreans in hiding in China
and the activists who are sheltering or helping them. The sums
offered were given as £45 for information on refugees and
10 times that amount, £450, for tips on missionaries or activists
who have assisted them.
International Advocate for Christian Solidarity
10 December 2002