Not surprisingly, the head of a U.N. human rights probe says he can’t get answers from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un regarding harrowing testimony from victims of the enigmatic regime, including allegations of being forced to survive on vermin, drown babies and witness the execution of loved ones.
Michael Kirby, who heads the U.N. commission examining North Korea’s human rights record, said Tuesday that his July 16 letter to the leader hasn’t been answered, and the government has offered no evidence to contradict graphic testimony of human rights abuses.
Kirby, a former judge in Australia’s highest court, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the commission it created in March nonetheless gathered testimony from dozens of victims, including defectors, and experts at public hearings in Seoul and Tokyo last month that has “given a face and voice to great human suffering.”
Overall, the testimony “points to widespread and serious violations in all areas that the Human Rights Council asked the commission to investigate. We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief,” said Kirby.
For example, he said, the commission heard from a young man imprisoned from birth, who said he lived on rodents, lizards and grass and saw his mother and brother executed.
It also heard from a young woman who said she saw another female prisoner forced to drown her own baby in a bucket, Kirby said, and a man who said he was forced to help collect and burn the corpses of prisoners who died of starvation.
The U.N.’s top rights official, Navi Pillay, reported to the Council that the U.N. had amassed evidence indicating that up to 200,000 people were being held in North Korean political prison camps rife with torture, rape and slave labor, and that some of the abuses may amount to crimes against humanity.
“The commission invited the authorities of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to attend the public hearings in Seoul and make representations, but received no reply,” Kirby said.