North Korea: Amnesty International called on North Korea to close “inhuman” prison camps where starving inmates are said to resort to eating rats. The organisation released satellite images that it said show the camps expanding as the communist regime launches what is described by Amnesty as a crackdown on political opponents in a period of uncertainty over the leadership.
As many as 200,000 people are kept at the camps, the group said, with many held simply because a relative also had been detained. However, North Korea has refused to acknowledge the existence of the facilities.
The images reveal the location, size and conditions inside the camps. Amnesty International spoke to a number of people, including former inmates from the political prison camp at Yodok as well as guards in other political prison camps, to obtain information about life in the camps.
“These are places out of sight of the rest of the world, where almost the entire range of human rights protections that international law has tried to set up for last 60 years are ignored,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director.
Amnesty International believes the camps have been in operation since the 1950s, yet only three people are ever known to have escaped Total Control Zones and managed to leave North Korea. About 30 are known to have been released from the Revolutionary Zone at Political Prison Camp in Yodok and managed to leave North Korea. According to the testimony of a former detainee at the revolutionary zone in the political prison camp at Yodok, an estimated 40 per cent of inmates died from malnutrition .between 1999 and 2001.
Satellite images show four of the six camps occupying huge areas of land and located in vast wilderness sites in South Pyongan, South Hamkyung and North Hamkyung provinces, and producing products ranging from soy bean paste and sweets to coal and cement.
A comparison of the latest images with satellite imagery from 2001 indicates a significant increase in the scale of the camps.