Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Group locates N Korea execution sites

LOOKING FORWARD:The human rights group said the data would be key if there is a political transition that allows for the identification of victims and probes into abuses


A human rights group yesterday said that it has identified hundreds of locations where witnesses claim North Korea carried out public executions and extrajudicial state killings as part of an arbitrary and aggressive use of the death penalty that is meant to intimidate its citizens.

The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group said that its research was based on interviews with 610 North Korean defectors conducted over four years who helped locate the sites with satellite imagery.

The group did not reveal the exact locations of the 323 sites, because it was worried that North Korea would tamper with them, but said that 267 of them are in two northeastern provinces near the border with China, the area where most of the defectors who participated in the study came from.

North Korea’s public executions tend to happen near rivers, in fields and on hills, and also at marketplaces and school grounds — places where residents and family members of those sentenced are often forced to attend the killings, the report said.

The group also said that it documented 25 sites where the dead were allegedly disposed of by the state and also found official locations that might have documents or other evidence related to the killings.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the report, and the group acknowledged that its findings were not definite, because it does not have direct access to North Korea and cannot visit the sites defectors told it about.

Interviews with defectors suggest that public executions in North Korea are becoming less frequent, although it was unclear whether that is because more people are being executed in secret, said Heeseok Shim, one of the report’s authors.

The Transitional Justice Working Group is a non-governmental organization founded by human rights advocates and researchers from South Korea and four other countries.

North Korea did not immediately respond to the report, but the nation bristles at outside criticism of its human rights record and claims negative assessments are part of US-led pressure campaigns meant to tarnish the image of its leadership and destroy the country’s political system.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council last month, North Korea said that it “consistently maintains the principle of ensuring scientific accuracy, objectivity and impartiality, as well as protecting human rights in dealing with criminal cases.”

However, a 2014 UN report on North Korea’s human rights conditions said that state authorities carry out executions, “with or without trial, publicly or secretly,” in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious offenses.

The new report said that its findings show arbitrary executions and extrajudicial killings under state custody have continued under the rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, despite international criticism over how North Korea supposedly applies the death penalty without due judicial process.

Since assuming leadership in 2011, Kim has shown a brutal side while consolidating his power, executing a slew of members of the North Korean old guard, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was convicted of treason, and senior officials accused of slighting his leadership.

Following a provocative run of nuclear and missile tests, Kim last year initiated diplomacy with Washington and Seoul in attempting to leverage his arsenal for economic and security benefits.

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