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UN investigator urges NK to free political prisoners

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. (AFP-Yonhap)
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. (AFP-Yonhap)

A UN investigator on North Korea has urged Pyongyang to free political prisoners, saying that the country should “follow suit” after Venezuela, which pardoned such people recently. 

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, made an appeal on his Twitter Wednesday (local time), by retweeting a post from the United Nations Human Rights welcoming the decision of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pardon over 100 political prisoners and activists who are in prison earlier this week. 

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should follow suit. Once again I urge the Government to release political prisoners, specially older, ill and undernourished, persons with disabilities, children, pregnant and lactating mothers and nursing parents,” Quintana said, using the North’s official name. 

The UN has estimated between 80,000 to 120,000 people are thought to be detained in political camps in North Korea, where detainees have been subject to torture and other violations. 

The North Korean government denies such political camps and human rights violations exist. However satellite imagery and testimonies from survivors have provided details about the repression at the camps. 

Amnesty International said in its report January that the North was presumed to be operating four political prisons in the country last year, where prisoners are under harsh conditions, facing torture, abuse and forced labor. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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