According to a UN human rights report published Tuesday, women detained in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are subjected to multiple and serious human rights violations by security and police officials.
The report was based on 100 first-hand accounts by North Korean women who were detained between 2009 and 2019. These women were detained by the Ministry of State Security or the Ministry of People’s Security upon returning to North Korea after traveling abroad.
Many of these women were imprisoned either without trial or after proceedings that did not meet due process and fair trial standards. Once the women were imprisoned, they were “systematically punished and subjected to a myriad of human rights violations,” which included unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, food deprivation, torture and beatings.
International standards require that male and female detainees be kept in separate institutions and that female detainees be exclusively supervised by female staff. However, according to the report, all of the prison guards were male. The women had a lack of privacy and were subjected to full body searches that were intended to humiliate and degrade them. This included invasive searches into private areas of the body. Some of the women were also raped or sexually harassed by the prison guards.
According to the report, the women were also given an inadequate quantity and poor quality of food, which led to high levels of malnutrition. Women were also required to perform forced manual labor without compensation, which is not allowed by international standards. The women were also not provided access to health care, which is a right protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The report called for many changes, including for the government to bring the detention system into line with international standards based on the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules. The report also called on other countries to support any accountability process to investigate crimes in the country.