North Korea
Currently ruled by Kim Jong-Un and the Worker’s Party of Korea, North Korea is one of the most oppressive countries in the world. Its leaders and government are adamant about isolating the country to ensure loyalty to North Korea and its communist way of life. In order to do this, many human rights are stripped from individuals living there. Although it is difficult to understand everything about the country given the secrecy and protection that is enforced, there are certain things about human rights in North Korea that have been uncovered.


Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in North Korea.

  1. Unauthorized access to media is prohibited, such as non-state radio, newspapers or unapproved TV broadcasts. North Koreans face severe punishments if they are found accessing such material.
  2. A large majority of North Koreans are forced to participate in unpaid labor at some point in their lives. The government does this to maintain control of its people as well as sustain the economy. In 2014, a former teacher from North Korea escaped and told officials that his school forced students, aging from 10 to 16, to work every day to produce funds to uphold the school, make a profit and pay government officials.
  3. Citizens of North Korea are divided into three classes based on their loyalty to their “Dear Leader.” The highest class is “core,” followed by “wavering” and ending with “hostile.” The “core” is filled with the most dedicated citizens, whereas the “hostile” contains members of minority faiths, in addition to descendants of alleged enemies of the state. The majority of the wealth resides among the “core,” while the “hostile” group is often denied employment and is even subjected to starvation.
  4. Citizens of North Korea are often forced to spy on one another, including family members, and they must report any disloyalty they find. The government enforces this through what is called the Ministry of People’s Security. If someone is heard being at all critical toward the government, they will likely be reduced to a lower loyalty group rating, and could be tortured, imprisoned in a concentration camp or possibly even executed.
  5. Traveling is heavily restricted in North Korea. Citizens caught trying to flee or travel outside of the country may be given the death penalty.
  6. Except among the ruling class, malnutrition is almost universal because of the restrictions on the lower class. The average seven-year-old in North Korea is about eight inches shorter than the average seven-year-old in South Korea.
  7. North Korea has 10 active concentration camps that people can be placed into at any time for any crime deemed severe enough. It is believed that between 200,000 to 250,000 prisoners currently reside within them. The conditions in the camps are horrific and have an estimated annual casualty rate of 25 percent.
  8. The government of North Korea has no due process system, which means it can torture, imprison and execute prisoners whenever it believes it is necessary.
  9. Anyone who is participating in religious activities that are outside of the state’s permission will have similar consequences to those mentioned above, including imprisonment, torture or execution.
  10. The North Korean regime attempts to keep disabled citizens hidden from the majority of the population, and they are banned from the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. Some disabled children are even killed after birth.

In consideration of these facts about human rights in North Korea, it is clear that rights of the citizens are extremely limited. However, although human rights in North Korea may be lacking, there has been some improvement. North Korea’s leadership has ongoing engagement with U.N. human rights treaty bodies. These include the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women.

Committees like these and other organizations are constantly working to spread awareness and improve human rights conditions within North Korea. Further progress is needed in order to dramatically change living conditions in the country, but it is fortunate that measures are already being taken to improve the rights of North Koreans.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Flagellation, beating and electric shock are among the injustices migrants and refugees have allegedly suffered in several Libyan detention centers, according to testimonies gathered in a Human Rights Watch investigation carried out in April. These detention centers, which are operated by the Libyan government, are home to as many as 6,000 people, most of whom are captured either while trying to flee to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or attempting to illegally enter Libya.

Though the government has been unsuccessful in catching the majority of those illegally entering or exiting the country–approximately three million illegal immigrants reside in Libya, while over half a million individuals are estimated to have their sights set on Europe–these detention centers remain extremely overcrowded and those detained are subject to poor sanitation conditions. In addition, the detainees are denied not only proper medical care, but also legal representation and trial prior to entering the detention facilities.

A representative from HRW who reported accounts of male guards inappropriately strip-searching women and girls noted that the unstable political situation in Libya is no excuse for the “torture and other deplorable violence” occurring in detention centers run by the government. Other testimonies detailed incidents in which guards violently attacked men and boys, digitally raped women and girls, and hung individuals from trees in order to beat them.

HRW has instructed Italy and the countries comprising the European Union to withhold international aid to the detention centers until the abuses cease. In the next four years, those countries were to invest a combined 12 million euros (roughly $16.4 million) into rehabilitating these centers. Now, most of that money will be invested into Libyan NGOs. A small amount will be still committed to rehabilitating several of the detention centers violating Libya’s international obligation to protect all on its soil, including those in detention centers.

Should the abuses stop, Italy and the EU are to convene with the Libyan Interior Ministry on how to best use aid to bring all detention centers up to international human rights standards.

These reports of torture come at a crucial time, as the numbers of migrants and refugees in Libya is not only at a record high but expected to continue to grow within the next few years, especially if the political uncertainty currently plaguing Libya persists. Those who have already experienced torture in these detention centers are at increased of risk of poverty upon their release, as the psychological and physical stress they have endured may prevent them from seeking or sustaining employment.

Ending torture, wherever it occurs in the world, should be at the forefront of international aid agendas not just because it endangers those who currently suffer from it  but also because it will affect their lives negatively thereafter as well.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: The Guardian, IRCT, Human Rights Watch
Photo: The Guardian

Rope isolated on white background
This week marked the anniversary of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

According to the United Nations, torture as a practice seeks “to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.”

The U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 52/149 in December 1997, a resolution that proclaimed June 26 as the U.N. International Day in Support of Torture Victims. Believing torture to be “one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings,” the resolution maintains the intention to completely eradicate all torture measures and practices.

Torture practices used today include the controversial waterboarding, sleep deprivation, force feeding, electric shock and cold cell, among others. Rape, beatings and public sexual humiliation are also considered to be forms of torture as they are measures used to inflict pain upon other individuals. Countries, including the United States, continue to use enhanced interrogation techniques to obtain information from suspected criminals or terrorists. Many believe these techniques qualify as acts of torture.

“As we honor the victims on this International day, let us pledge to strengthen our efforts to eradicate this heinous practice,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The U.N. Fund for Victims of Torture has assisted torture victims around the world. It provides direct assistance to torture victims — assistance that includes access to psychological and physical rehabilitation centers as well legal services.

While many countries do not make use of torture practices, 41 countries have not ratified the Convention Against Torture and thus allow and continue to use practices deemed to be inhuman by the U.N. In fact, Amnesty International’s 2013 Report stated that 112 of 159 countries practiced torture methods in 2012.

“Torture is an unequivocal crime,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said. “Neither national security nor the fight against terrorism, the threat of war, or any public emergency can justify its use,” Pillay said. “All States are obliged to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and they must ensure by every means that such practices are prevented.”

Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, United Nations, International Business Times, Human Rights Web, United Nations Human Rights, Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture
Photo: Time and Date

On October 11, 2013, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office welcomed the unanimous adoption of a new anti-torture law in Tunisia which will go about creating a new formal advocacy body dedicated to preventing and eliminating torture. The Office hailed the anti-torture initiative as a step forward in Tunisia’s ongoing transition to democracy since the country’s revolution that sparked the Arab Spring in December 2010.

Officially created by the Tunisian government on October 9, the Anti-Torture Initiative, formerly known as the National Body to Prevent Torture, is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesman Rupert Colville. Tunisia has been taking steps to eradicate torture since June 2011, when the North African nation ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

The Body will be independent from the Tunisian government, but it will have broad jurisdiction, which includes the power to visit and hold accountable all sites of detention in the country. Additionally, the largest UN committee, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, will also have permission to visit Tunisian detention sites as well as assist Tunisia’s new initiative in the implementation of such a national body.

The OHCHR bureau in Tunisia, which was established there about two years before the start of the Arab Spring, had an important role to play in the creation of the National Body to Prevent Torture in Tunisia through debates and consultation sessions. This collaboration with the international community also helped to bring together Tunisian governmental officials, such as the Ministry for Human Rights and Transitional Justice, as well as vital non-governmental officials such as national and international NGOs.

The president of Tunisia claims that this all-encompassing approach to the transition to democracy post-Arab Spring is necessary to see the “fruition of Arab revolutions.” In his statement to the General Assembly on September 26, President Marzouki advocated for a more stable Tunisia and other Arab Spring countries, as well as the international community’s support to make the transition, as was done with the creation of the National Body to Prevent Torture.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: UN News Centre: Tunisian law, UN News Centre: General Debae

Various Bedouin tribes have turned the Sinai Triangular Peninsula into a nightmare for Africa with their torture and human trafficking. The tribes profit through their kidnapping regime and ransom strategies, making millions of dollars in the process.

This kidnapping racket has existed for many years. Bedouin tribes snatch refugees during their flight from their home countries or while they are in refugee camps. Have left their homes to build a better life, the kidnapped victims largely originate from Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, often on their way to Europe or Israel. There have been reports of bribed border-patrolmen who enable the kidnappings. The victims are next transported to Sinai, where they are tortured and held for ransom. Oftentimes, they are sold multiple times, passed from trader to trader with new ransoms each time. The ransom fees reach up to $50,000, an impossible amount for most African refugee families.

While held in the camps, sickening acts of torture take place. Various forms of physical torture, sexual torture, and starvation are among the most common. One means of transport involves placing the victims in metal shipping containers without ventilation or toilets. The Physicians for Human Rights director, Shahar Shoham, has reported over 1,300 individual incidents of torture in Sinai alone. However, Shoham reports the majority of torture cases go undocumented. Known torture methods include upside-down hanging, electric shocks, and pouring liquid plastic on them, sometimes while on the phone with their families in an attempt to scare their relatives into providing the ransom money.

According to the New York Times, abductors have captured over 7,000 refugees, with 4,000 of their victims dying durring imprisonment. Even if captives manage to escape or be released due to a paid ransom, their situation remains bleak. They are left to wander around the Israeli border and attempt to make the dangerous border-crossing. They must also avoid Israeli and Egyptian police, or risk being arrested or deported back to the countries they originally fled.

Even with all this information available, little is being done to address the problem. In fact, the problem is reported to be worsening. Friendly Bedouin tribes offer assistance to escaped torture camp victims, but do not have the political clout necessary to make any real change. Opponents of the torture camps fear a massive bloodshed if any attempts are made to stop the kidnapping heists. The Egyptian government has essentially turned a blind eye on this deadly region as well, leaving these victims on their own to fight for their rights.

– Allison Meade

Sources: CBN, Canada Free Press
Photo: Blogspot