New York City (AsiaNews) - Children drowned shortly after birth, people killed in front of hundreds of witnesses, shacks invaded by parasites are just some aspects of life in North Korean prison camps, survivors told a United Nations commission of inquiry seeking to shed light on the atrocities committed by Kim Jong-un's regime.
Michael Kirby, a former judge on Australia's High Court who steers a one-year commission of inquiry on North Korea set up in March by the UN Human Rights Council, has collected the testimonies of former prisoners and exiles who fled the persecution of one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
"Testimony heard thus far points to widespread and serious violations in all areas," Kirby said.
"We will seek to determine which state institutions and officials carry responsibility for gross human rights violations proved to have been committed," he explained.
Indeed, "We have, in a preliminary way, received testimony that identifies persons who are in charge of particular prison camps," as well as the chain of command.
"The commission listened to political prison camp survivors who suffered through childhoods of starvation and unspeakable atrocities as a product of the 'guilt by association' practice, punishing other generations for a family member's perceived political views or affiliation," he told the council.
The reference here is to the doctrine conceived by the "father of the nation" Kim Il-sung, according to whom political or civil offenders must be punished for "three generations".
Some of the evidence gathered in South Korea and Japan from North Korean exiles is truly applaing.
One man imprisoned from birth lived on rodents, lizards and grass, and witnessed the execution of his mother and brother; a woman saw a fellow inmate forced to drown her own baby in a bucket; and a man was obliged to burn the corpses of starved inmates and scatter their ashes on vegetable patches.
Pyongyang has not allowed UN inspectors into the country and has refused to provide information about state-run concentration camps, which hold about 300,000 people according to some estimates.
North Korea said those behind the allegations were "human scum", but Kirby said, "An ounce of evidence is worth far more than many pounds of insults and baseless attacks."