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North Korean gulags 'as terrible, or even worse' than Nazi camps, Auschwitz survivor says

In a report detailing gruesome atrocities, an international committee says Kim Jong Un should be prosecuted for 10 separate crimes against humanity.
Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen as the 8th ammunition industry convention is held on December 11 in Pyongyang, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the 8th ammunition industry convention, on Dec. 11, 2017 in Pyongyang, North Korea.KCNA / via Reuters

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un should be prosecuted for 10 separate crimes against humanity relating to atrocities committed against his own people across a network of gulags, an international committee said Tuesday.

While much of the world's attention may be focused on North Korea's nuclear capability, up to 130,000 people are believed to be detained in the country's prison camps, spirited away for arbitrary crimes such as gossiping about the state.

A report by the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee on Tuesday detailed some of the most graphic of these atrocities perpetrated by Kim's regime, widely regarded as one of the most repressive on the planet.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Sinuiju concentration camp (Kyo-hwa-so No. 3) - a reeducation camp in North Korea.
Satellite imagery shows the Sinuiju concentration camp (Kyo-hwa-so No. 3) — a reeducation camp in North Korea, on Oct. 29, 2016.DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

"There is sufficient evidence to establish that perpetrators ranging from Kim Jong Un to lower-level prison guards perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, crimes against humanity in North Korean political prison camps," the report said.

Thomas Buergenthal — a renowned judge on the committee and a survivor of Auschwitz — told The Washington Post that North Korea's gulags "are as terrible, or even worse" than the Nazi camps he experienced as a child.

North Korean defectors told the committee about some of the individual atrocities they witnessed.

These included a prisoner's newborn baby being fed to guard dogs, the execution of starving prisoners caught digging for edible plants on the mountainside, and a variety of violent measures designed to induce abortions, including injecting motor oil into women's wombs.

Related: Trump's North Korea policy could trigger famine, experts warn

The committee said hundreds of thousands of prisoners are estimated to have died over the near 70-year rule of the Kim dynasty.

It told of how Christians are routinely tortured, with officials instructed "to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries," prisoners are executed to exert control over the rest of the penal population, and thousands of people have been deliberately starved to death.

The International Bar Association's report described itself as an "unofficial follow-up" to a landmark United Nations inquiry in 2014, which said North Korea's atrocities were "strikingly similar" to the crimes committed by the Nazis.

It recommended that the International Criminal Court or another international body should be empowered to investigate these crimes perpetrated by Kim and other regime officials.

The dictator is guilty of murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts — all but one of the 11 recognized crimes against humanity — the report said.