The ICNK recently sent a letter urging Foreign Ministers of UN Member States and Representatives of Member States at the UN to recognize the detention system in North Korea as constituting a crime against humanity. The letter was signed by 179 defectors and sent on their behalf. The text of the letter is below.
179 defectors from North Korea
Seoul, Republic of Korea
October 31, 2012
Dear Foreign Minister:
We are survivors of severe human rights violations in North Korea to seek your urgent support.We sincerely request your government to support efforts, possibly through an examination by commission of inquiry under United Nations auspices, that would recognize that North Korea’s massive system of arbitrary detention and forced labor under truly horrible conditions constitute crimes against humanity. We ask this from you because such criminal acts were committed against us, and we know they are still being committed against those who still remain in the prison camps and forced labor facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).We are convinced that recognition by the international community that crimes against humanity are being committed in North Korea will encourage the new leadership of the DPRK to realize that they must end the practice of imprisonment without trial coupled with slave labor and induced starvation that leads to very high rates of deaths in detention.We believe that international recognition of these grievous human rights violations will become known inside North Korea and could bring a measure of relief to our friends, neighbors and relatives still suffering from the abuses we endured and survived.
Some of us signing this letter were forcibly disappeared from our homes and imprisoned, without any judicial process whatsoever, in sprawling encampments where we were deprived of our liberty for reasons we do not believe are permitted under international human rights law.We were subjected to forced labor so severe as to constitute slavery in mines, logging enterprises, collective farms and various factories.We were subjected to reduced food rations so extreme that we saw scores of our fellow prisoners die of malnutrition and disease.We witnessed fellow prisoners and detainees beaten for failure to meet daily production quotas and executed without trial for infractions of the onerous labor camp regulations.
Some of us were imprisoned because of a perceived or presumed offense of our fathers, grandfathers or husbands.Some of us were released from imprisonment because we had lost so much weight and we were so sick that the authorities thought they were sending us home to die.Many of us were systematically tortured or beaten severely while in detention, and our physical and emotional scars remain.Many of us were forced to observe executions at close range and we observed prisoners being required to beat other prisoners.These severe human rights violations were, and are, part of a sustained effort to cleanse the North Korean population of politically suspect or tainted elements, which we ourselves were suspected to be by the authorities.
Some of us fled North Korea because we feared being further persecuted. Others of us left North Korea during famine in search of food, or employment in China or Russia so our families remaining in North Korea could purchase basic food supplies and medicine for their survival. Many of us were arrested and forcibly repatriated back to North Korea where we were subjected to severe persecution and punishment.
Many of us female signers were subjected to sexual humiliation and violence while in detention following forced repatriation.Some of us were subjected to human trafficking, and forcibly repatriated while pregnant.Some of us observed repatriated pregnant women subjected to forced abortions or infanticide because the presumed father was Chinese and the babies were only half-Korean.
For our survival, many of us left North Korea by exercising our right to freedom of movement and right to leave our country of origin as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Upon repatriation we were subjected to humiliating and abusive interrogations, characterized by beatings and systematic torture. And because many of us were suspected by the North Korean police agencies of having come into contact with South Koreans, or South Korean radio or television, or Korean-Chinese churches while in China, our rights to freedom of association and religion were violated, and we were again subjected to abuses without any judicial process, and subjected to forced labor and grossly inadequate food rations.We were held in penitentiaries and prisons where many, if not most, inmates were “border crossers” and where rates of death in detention are very high We can assure you that DPRK government took these actions, and continues to take them, against thousands of our fellow North Korean men and women.
We bring this situation of systematic and widespread violations to your attention because having fled North Korea and having found safety and asylum in South Korea we are the only North Koreans who can exercise our freedom of speech to tell you these things.
Previously, many of us wrote to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, offering our testimony and asking him to initiate a preliminary examination to determine if the violations committed against us constituted crimes against humanity as set forth in the Rome Statute.But the Office of the Prosecutor informed us that without the DPRK’s acceptance of jurisdiction or a referral from the UN Security Council, the concerns we raised were outside of the jurisdiction of the Court.Thus, the Prosecutor’s Office encouraged us to raise these matters with the appropriate national or international authorities.
Subsequently, we have provided testimony to the South Korean National Human Rights Commission.Some of us have met with the UN Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situation in the DPRK.We have spoken to representatives and committees of several Governments.And we have provided testimony to South Korean and international human rights non-governmental organizations.
Presently we are writing to the Foreign Ministers of the Member States that have supported the North Korean human rights resolution at the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly.As the victims of those violations, we very much appreciate your country’s previous and ongoing support.Unfortunately, up to now, the DPRK has ignored those resolutions, similar to the way that the DPRK ignores the resolutions of the Security Council with respect to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Thus, on behalf of ourselves, and on behalf of those who are still suffering in the forced labor camps and political prisons of North Korea, we are asking that, upon due consideration through a UN-organized examination, the Human Rights Council and General Assembly recognize and stipulate that the North Korean human rights violations that we witnessed and endured constitute crimes against humanity.Again, as mentioned, we believe that in the long run, international recognition that the DPRK violations constitute crimes against humanity will encourage the North Korean leadership to realize that it must stop these abuses.
We hope it might be possible to discuss our request with the representative of your country at the UN in New York or Geneva, and your embassy in Seoul.