North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s mistreatment of political
prisoners is at least as egregious as that carried out in World
War II concentration camps, according to a former international
judge who survived Auschwitz.
Thomas Buergenthal, a law professor who served for a decade as
an International Court of Justice judge, said a new report he
helped write documenting atrocities in North Korea’s prisons
shows the Kim regime may be “even worse” than Nazis.
“I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison
camps are as terrible, or even worse, than
those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and
in my long professional career in the human rights field,”
Buergenthal, who endured the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen
concentration camps a child, told The Washington
Buergenthal is an author of a report published Tuesday by the
International Bar Association, “Inquiry on Crimes
Against Humanity in North Korean Political
Prisons.” It documents atrocities inside the
country’s prisons, where an estimated 80,000 to 130,000 people
are being held.
The report is based on testimony from North Korean defectors,
including a former prison guard, and scholarly research, videos
and transcripts. It says investigators found evidence of crimes
against humanity that have been committed in the prisons,
including murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible
transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution
and enforced disappearances.
The report focuses on North Korea’s four “total control zones,”
where people are sent with no prospect of release. “Hundreds of
thousands of political prisoners have been sent to political
prisons over the past 50 years, with up to three generations of
families detained together and forced into slave labor, mostly
to work in mines, logging and agriculture,” the report
Prisoners are regularly tortured and killed, according to the
report. It says rape is rampant, as is malnutrition, starvation
“There is not a comparable situation anywhere in the world,
past or present,” Navi Pillay, another report author who
also is a judge in South Africa, told the Post. “This is really
an atrocity at the maximum level, where the whole population is
subject to intimidation.”
The report calls for an international tribunal to investigate
North Korea’s crimes against humanity and to hold accountable
those responsible, including Kim, party officials, prison
guards and security officials.
“Given North Korea’s tightly controlled leadership structure,
Kim Jong Un and his inner circle warrant prosecution under the
principle of command responsibility,” the report says.
The study serves as an unofficial update to a 2014 United
Nations inquiry on human rights abuses in North Korea, the
International Bar Association said.
The North Korean regime’s policy of detaining people it views
as enemy “seeds” dates back to the 1950s. But accurately
documenting crimes inside the country’s prisons has been
hampered by North Korea’s isolation, even as it develops a nuclear
President Donald Trump has
responded to the nuclear program with bellicose threats and
demands that China take responsibility, as one of North Korea’s
sole allies. China will reportedly open refugee camps
on its border with the rogue regime to house defectors.