By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA - North Korean camp survivors suffered "starvation and unspeakable atrocities", evidence of widespread and systematic violations by the state, U.N. human rights investigators said on Tuesday (17/09/2013).
Michael Kirby, head of the independent inquiry, said testimony from North Korean exiles, including former political prison camps inmates, given at public hearings in Seoul and Tokyo last month, suggested a pattern of behaviour by the state.
"They are representative of large-scale patterns that may constitute systematic and gross human rights violations,” Kirby told the U.N. Human Rights Council of the team’s first report.
He said the independent inquiry would seek to determine which North Korean institutions and officials were responsible.
The commission of inquiry was launched by the Geneva forum in March to investigate violations in the secretive impoverished state, including possible crimes against humanity.
Shin Dong-hyuk, North Korea’s best-known defector who escaped a political prison camp where he was born, was among those who testified in South Korea.
Kirby, referring to Shin, said: "We think of the testimony of a young man, imprisoned from birth and living on rodents, lizards and grass to survive and witnessing the public execution of his mother and his brother.”
The investigators, who have not had access to the country despite repeated requests, said the testimony by defectors and other witnesses and "extensive evidence” stood unanswered. Kirby challenged Pyongyang to produce "an ounce of evidence” in its defence.
North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong said the inquiry was a fake and defamatory plot to force regime change in North Korea. It had been politicised by the European Union and Japan, "in alliance with the U.S. hostile policy", he said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tom Miles and Elizabeth Piper) - Reuters