In North Korean prison camps, torture is routine
and public executions are regular occurrences, according to former inmates who testified Tuesday before a U.N. Commission of Inquiry South Korea's capital of Seoul.
The inquiry is the first time that North Korea's human rights record is being examined by an expert panel, Reuters reported
Now being ruled by a third generation of the founding Kim family, the communist nation has yet to recognize the commission and denies having committed human rights abuses, while refusing to allow investigators access to their prison facilities.
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Shin Dong-hyuk, one of the most well-known former inmates, shared several painful experiences he had while imprisoned in North Korea with the U.N. Commission, including one in which guards cut off his finger.
"I had no idea at all ... I thought my whole hand was going to be cut off at the wrist, so I felt thankful and grateful that only my finger was cut off," former inmate Shin Dong-hyuk told the commission.
Dong-hyuk's offense was having dropped a sewing machine.
Having been born in a prison called Camp 14, Dong-hyuk was reportedly forced to watch the execution of his mother and brother whom he turned in for his own survival, Reuters reported.
"Because the North Korean people cannot stand up with guns like Libya and Syria ... I personally think this is the first and last hope left," Shin said of the U.N. panel. "There is a lot for them to cover up, even though they don't admit to anything."
According to the testifying former inmates, many of the North Koran prison camp occupants, who they say are extremely malnourished, are forced to work to death.
Another prisoner, 34-year-old Jee Heon-a, recounted to the committee the painful tale involving her mother, who she says was forced by prison guards to kill her own baby.
"It was the first time I had seen a newborn baby and I felt happy. But suddenly there were footsteps and a security guard came in and told the mother to turn the baby upside down into a bowl of water," she said.
"The mother begged the guard to spare her, but he kept beating her. So the mother, her hands shaking, put the baby face down in the water. The crying stopped and a bubble rose up as it died. A grandmother who had delivered the baby quietly took it out."
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According to U.N. officials, the commission is not expected to have an immediate impact on the human rights atrocities reportedly being committed in the oppressive nation, but rather bring attention to the situation on a global level, Reuters reported.
Presently, there are believed to be between 150,000 and 200,000 individuals imprisoned in North Korean prison camps.
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