UN panel collects accounts of N. Korea's human rights abuses
North Korean defector Shin Dong-hyuk lost his finger after guards at Camp 14, one of North Korea's many prison camps, cut it off as a punishment for damaging camp property by mistake.
The 31-year-old was born in Camp 14 and spent most of his life there until his escape, with no sense of freedom or rights as a human being.
"A camp prisoner must ask for permission from the guards before eating scraps off the ground, or even before he or she can eat a rat that they found."
Around 200-thousand people are believed to be imprisoned in North Korea's prison camps today, where they are malnourished or even worked to death.
In an effort to end such widespread abuses of human rights in the communist state, the United Nations' Commission of Inquiry began a five-day hearing in Seoul on Tuesday.
The three-member panel, headed by Michael Kirby, will collect evidence that supports the alleged violations through testimony like that given by Shin.
"The plans going forward are to conclude a series of hearings in Seoul in Korea, and that will be in the beginning of next week. We then go to Tokyo in Japan, where the focus will be substantially upon abductees from that country to North Korea."
North Korea has denied any human rights abuses, and has said that UN inspectors will not be allowed on North Korean soil.
The investigation, the first of its kind, is not expected to have an immediate impact on improving the dire human rights conditions in the North, but it's believed it WILL help publicize the issue globally and perhaps add pressure on the regime.
"The commission is a flicker of hope for not only myself but for those living in prison camps and in North Korea. Those in the North don't know that such an investigation is taking place, but we have big hopes about it nonetheless."
The commission will wrap up its investigation by the end of this year and will give its final report to the UN's Human Rights Council in March 2014.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.
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