North Korean soldiers in Pyongyang on October 12, 2020. -

Jon Chol Jin / AP / SIPA

The situation looks even worse than that depicted in the movie

Midnight Express


Torture, humiliation and coerced confessions are rife in the North Korean justice system, which treats detainees "worse than animals," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Monday.

"You have to hit them to get the confession"

The United States-based human rights organization claims to have interviewed dozens of former detainees as well as North Korean officials and denounces the situation in detention centers in North Korea, where torture is prevalent. often practiced.

Accused of large-scale human rights violations, North Korea is a “closed” country and little known about the functioning of its justice system.

Interviewees claimed that pre-trial detention is "particularly harsh" and that detainees are mistreated, often beaten.

"The regulations say detainees should not be beaten but we need a confession during the investigation," said a former police officer.

"So you have to hit them to get the confession," he admitted.

Sixteen hours without moving

Ex-detainees said they were forced to kneel or sit on their legs crossed without moving for sometimes sixteen hours at a time, when any action resulted in punishment.

They were then beaten with sticks, leather belts and even punches and had to run around the prison yard a thousand times in circles.

“There, you are treated worse than an animal, which is what you end up being,” ex-convict Yoon Young Cheol explained.

Women interviewed said they had been sexually assaulted.

Kim Sun Young, a former trader in her 50s who fled North Korea in 2015, said she was raped by her investigator in a detention center.

Another police officer touched during her interrogation, she added, saying she did not have the strength to oppose.

Will there be international pressure?

In its report, HRW calls on Pyongyang to "end endemic and cruel torture, as well as degrading and inhuman treatment in detention centers."

HRW is also urging South Korea, the United States and other UN member countries to "put pressure on the North Korean government."

In general, North Korea claims to respect human rights and asserts that criticism from the international community represents a smear campaign aimed at "undermining the sacred socialist system".


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