The United States condemns North Korea's "increasingly draconian measures" to strengthen control over its population during the COVID-19 pandemic and will work to "promote accountability" for the Kim Jong Un regime, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"We stand with the millions of North Koreans who continue to have their dignity and human rights violated by one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world," Price said in a statement released Wednesday to mark the occasion of North Korea Freedom Week.
"...officials of the UN. Such visits could assist to implementing development goals in North Korea. Assessments are also urgently needed in North Korea that look at human rights and humanitarian assistance." -@GregScarlatoiu— HRNK (@committeehrnk) April 27, 2021
"We are appalled by the increasingly draconian measures the regime has taken, including shoot-to-kill orders at the North Korea-China border, to tighten control of its people under the guise of fighting COVID-19," Price said.
North Korea Freedom Week, an event co-organized by international and South Korean non-governmental organizations, has been held each April since 2003.
Price said more than 100,000 political prisoners being held in North Korean prison camps "suffer unspeakable abuses."
"The civilized world has no place for such brutality, and the international community must continue to speak out," he said.
A 2014 Commission of Inquiry report by the United Nations estimated that up to 120,000 prisoners are being held in political camps in North Korea. It documented crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, execution, deliberate starvation and forced labor that were "without parallel in the contemporary world."
Last month, a report by the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea cited "the urgent need to take decisive actions to bring justice and accountability for such crimes" and recommended a referral to the International Criminal Court.
"The United States will continue to raise awareness of North Korea's egregious human rights situation, investigate abuses and violations, support access to independent information for the North Korean people and work with the United Nations and like-minded allies to promote accountability for the Kim regime," Price said.
so grateful for having @ImMyungheeLee guest lecture for my North Korea course this week- not only a nice break for me but also my students are lucky to benefit from Dr. Lee's expertise on North Korean human rights.— Charmaine N. Willis (@futuredrwillis) April 27, 2021
Price also pointed to "the courage of the North Korean defector and human rights community" and said the United States "will always support their efforts to shine a spotlight on these grave injustices."
In December, the South Korean government banned efforts by defector-led activist groups to send leaflets and other information across the border to the North, sparking controversy.
North Korea has long condemned the acts, which involve floating balloons or sending plastic bottles over waterways. In June, Pyongyang cut off all communications with Seoul and blew up a shared liaison office in the border city of Kaesong after expressing outrage over the leaflets.
At a U.S. congressional hearing earlier this month, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., called the anti-leafleting law "an attack on free speech," and said it was "very troubling."
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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