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“High-profile execution in North Korea is just one among many other cases,” UN experts warn

North Korea / Executions

18 December 2013

GENEVA (18 December 2013) – United Nations human rights experts today warned that the high-profile execution of a senior official in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with a total disregard of due process and other international human rights standards, is just one among multiple executions reported in the country since August this year.

“The arrest, trial by a special military tribunal and execution of Jang Song Thaek, uncle of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, all reportedly took place within five days,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, Marzuki Darusman. The execution was reported by the State media, citing offences including ‘anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership.’

“I have also received information from different sources about multiple reports of public executions in different locations in DPRK, in particular during the past four months, which allegedly involved charges such as selling illegal videos, viewing pornography and taking drugs,” he said, urging the Government to immediately halt all executions.

Mr. Darusman also expressed particular concern about the worrying and widely documented practice of ‘guilt by association’ in DPRK. When a person is punished for a political or ideological crime, associates and members of his or her family also risk punishment by either being sent to prison camps or being executed immediately.

“I deeply deplore the recent executions which were allegedly founded on political grounds,” the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, said.

“If the death penalty is to be used at all, international law clearly requires that it is imposed under very strict circumstances,” Mr. Heyns stressed. “These must include a trial that meets the highest standards of fairness and the ‘most serious crimes provision,’ restricting the imposition of the capital punishment for the crime of intentional killing only.”

According to the DPRK State news agency, Korean Central News Agency, Jang Song Thaek was arrested and expelled from the Worker’s Party of Korea on 8 December and executed on 12 December 2013, after being indicted by the military tribunal established by the Ministry of State Security.

The experts concerns have also been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more:

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