SEOUL (Reuters) - Public executions and torture are daily occurrences in North Korea's prisons, according to dramatic testimony from former inmates at a U.N. Commission of Inquiry that opened in South Korea's capital on Tuesday.
This is the first time that the North's human rights record has been examined by an expert panel, although the North, now ruled by a third generation of the founding Kim family, denies that it abuses human rights. It refuses to recognize the commission and has denied access to investigators.
Harrowing accounts from defectors now living in South Korea related how guards chopped off a man's finger, forced inmates to eat frogs and a mother to kill her own baby.
"I had no idea at all ... I thought my whole hand was going to be cut off at the wrist, so I felt thankful and grateful that only my finger was cut off," said Shin Dong-hyuk, punished for dropping a sewing machine.
Born in a prison called Camp 14 and forced to watch the execution of his mother and brother whom he turned in for his own survival, Shin is North Korea's best-known defector and camp survivor. He said he believed the U.N. panel was the only way to improve human rights in the isolated and impoverished state.
"Because the North Korean people cannot stand up with guns like Libya and Syria ... I personally think this is the first and last hope left," Shin said. "There is a lot for them to cover up, even though they don't admit to anything."
There are a 150,000-200,000 people in North Korean prison camps, according to independent estimates, and defectors say many inmates are malnourished or worked to death. Continue reading via Reuters...