Last September, Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge and leader of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, briefed the U.N. Human Rights Council on what it had heard so far in its dozens of interviews with North Korean refugees and defectors.
“We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief,” Kirby said of his team’s work. “Women and men who exercised their human right to leave the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and were forcibly repatriated spoke about their experiences of torture, sexual violence, inhumane treatment and arbitrary detention.”
“They had to live on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards and on grass and they were subject to cruelty,” Kirby told the BBC World TV in September, speaking about children interviewed during the panel’s investigation.
“All in all it is a very horrifying story, the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen or read of since the Khmer Rouge [in Cambodia] and the Nazi atrocities during the second world war,” Kirby continued.