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UN rights expert criticizes North Korea treatment of prisoners

The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Marzuki Darusman criticized North Korea's human rights record on Friday, especially concerning treatment of prisoners, echoing a UN General Assembly [official website] resolution [text] earlier this week. After speaking to North Korean refugees in South Korea, Darusman said he was convinced that 200,000 political prisoners are being abused [AFP report] in forced labor camps. North Korea has refused to admit agents of the UN to gather information and denies that labor camps exist. Monday's resolution, which urged North Korea "to immediately end all violations of human rights and give voice to the victims of these violations," was lambasted by the North Korean government, which called it an attempt by the US to tarnish [AFP report] North Korea's reputation with the international community. During the drafting of the resolution, the representative for North Korea also resisted censure, stating the North Korean government was being held to a double standard and they would not respond to confrontation and "political pressure." Darusman, despite his criticisms of the nation, called for other countries, especially South Korea, to continue offering aid [VOA report] due to a worsening famine.

In December, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] confirmed that the prosecutor's office has opened preliminary examinations to evaluate possible war crimes committed by North Korea [JURIST report]. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] verified that evaluations will determine if some of the incidents by North Korean forces in South Korea constitute war crimes, giving the ICC jurisdiction over the matter. Earlier in 2010, a UN committee condemned [JURIST report] what it called persistent, "grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights" of its own people. In March 2010, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] adopted a resolution condemning [JURIST report] North Korea for human rights abuses. Earlier in March, the UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn reported to the UNHRC that North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. This report came after Muntarbhorn's previous criticism, in October, 2009, of North Korea's "abysmal" [JURIST report] and ongoing human rights violations, alleging that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations and widespread hunger.

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