150,000 languish in N Korean prison camps: Red Cross

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:37

Washington: A new report says more than
150,000 North Koreans are incarcerated in a Soviet-style, hidden gulag despite the communist government`s denial it holds political prisoners.

The report released today by the US-based Committee for
Human Rights in North Korea is based on interviews with 60
former prisoners and guards. It includes satellite images of
what are described as prison labour camps and penitentiaries.

The report documents the alleged incarceration of whole
families, including children and grandparents for the
"political crimes" of other family members, and infanticide
and forced abortions of women prisoners, who illegally crossed
into China and got pregnant by men there, and were then
forcibly repatriated to North Korea.

The committee, a private group, is holding a conference
today in Washington, timed for Pyongyang`s celebrations to
mark the centennial of the repressive nation`s founder.
US envoy on North Korean human rights, Robert King, is
due to address the conference, that comes as the international
spotlight shines on the North over its plans to launch a
long-range rocket and, according to South Korean intelligence,
a third nuclear test.

"It is not just nuclear weapons that have to be
dismantled," said Roberta Cohen, chair of the committee`s
board of directors, "but an entire system of political
repression."

The report says the camp system was initially modeled in
the 1950s on the Soviet gulag, to punish "wrong thinkers" and
those belonging to the "wrong political class" or religious
persuasion.

It cites estimates from North Korean state security
agency officials who defected to South Korea that the camp
system holds between 150,000 and 200,000 people out of a total
population of around 24 million. It urges North Korea to allow
the International Committee of the Red Cross access, and to
dismantle the camps.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:37

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