ASIA/NORTH KOREA - Prison camps spread out and encompass the villages

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - The notorious "prison camps" that exist in North Korea, where more than 200 thousand political prisoners and dissidents are detained, for reasons of conscience and religion, are getting bigger and encompass the surrounding villages: this is what Amnesty International denounces, after the analysis of new satellite images. In a statement sent to Fides, Amnesty International reiterates its call to the United Nations to "establish an independent commission of inquiry on the serious, systematic and widespread human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, under way in the country."
In recent months, the NGO had received news on the possible construction of a new "Kwanliso" (political prison camp), adjacent to camp no. 14 in Kaechon, in the province of South Pyongan. This is why Amnesty had asked the company "DigitalGlobe" to provide satellite images. The image analysis reveals that, from 2006 to February 2013, North Korea built a 20 km perimeter around the valley of Ch'oma-bong (70 km northeast of the capital Pyongyang) and its inhabitants, with new access points controlled and with guard towers. Analysts also identified the construction of new buildings that may be dormitories for workers, possibly related to the expansion of the mining activity in the region.
In this way the government "strengthens controls on the movement of the population (more than 100 thousand people) who live near camp no. 14, canceling the distinction between the inmates of the prison camp and the inhabitants of the valley," notes the press release.
Amnesty International is "concerned about the living conditions of the population living within the new perimeter and for the future intentions of the North Korean government."
It is estimated that more than 200 thousand people, including children, are held in political prison camps and other detention centers in North Korea, subjected to human rights violations, such as the obligation to perform heavy labor, denial of food as a form of punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many detainees have not committed any crime, and are only connected to people considered disloyal to the regime, therefore subjected to a sort of "collective punishment." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/03/2013)