Showing posts with label torture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label torture. Show all posts

Monday, May 30, 2011

Farmer reportedly crucified in Ivory Coast

On 30 May 2011, Ivorian.net published a piece by César Etou who reports that on Saturday 28 May, pro-Ouattara gunmen crucified a farmer in Ivory Coast village of Binkro, Oumé Subprefecture, Central-western Ivory Coast.

The militants reportedly nailed the poor peasant's hands and feet to a plank in the form of cross as "the example of Christ". According to sources, UN forces called to the rescue arrived too late to save the man.

Représailles contre les populations Un paysan crucifié à Oumé
Notre Voie-30 May 2011

UPDATE: Christian advocacy group Barnabas Fund (BF) reported on 8 June that actually two men had been crucified -- peasant brothers Raphael Aka Kouame and Kouassi Privat Kacou. Both men were accused of hiding weapons and savagely beaten before being crudely nail to crosses with steel spikes despite their pleas of innocence.

According to the BF report, Ouattara’s men subsequently conducted an extensive search of Binkro but found only a store of medical equipment and supplies, which they looted. Despite there being no evidence of weapons, the seriously wounded pair were then taken to prison in Oumé, where Raphael died in the night.

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If this seems unbelievable, I recommend the Human Rights Watch report:

Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo Supporters Tortured, Killed in Abidjan
Rampant Reprisals by Pro-Ouattara Forces Mar New Presidency
2 June 2011

This report details numerous gross human rights abuses committed by pro-Ouattara militia: ethnic cleansing, torture, rapes, summary executions, mass graves . . .

Human Rights Watch is calling for Pres. Ouattara to end the impunity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BURMA (MYANMAR): SEVERE PERSECUTION OF ETHNIC CHIN

Nobel Prize winning Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has just released an important report entitled "Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma's Chin State".

Burma's ethnic Chin minority is virtually entirely Christian, and Christianity is integral to the culture of Chin State. This report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) presents evidence of systematic human rights abuses against the Chin on ethnic and religious grounds. (The junta advances ethnic Burman and Buddhist supremacy.)

The abuses are perpetrated by regime officials, most of whom are soldiers. Nearly 92 percent of all households interviewed had experienced at least one episode of a family member being conscripted for forced labour (enslavement). Nearly 15 percent of all those interviewed had experienced beatings, rape and/or torture at the hands of junta officials.

Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma's Chin State
Physicians for Human Rights (Jan 2011)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ERITREA: RELENTLESS PERSECUTION

Christianity came to Ethiopia-Eritrea in the early 4th Century, brought into the court of King Ezana by two Syrian merchants, Frumentius and Aedesius.[1] Today Eritrea is around 50 percent Christian, with more than 90 percent of all Eritrean Christians belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC). In recent decades a Biblical revival movement known as 'Medhane Alam' (lit. Saviour of the World) has grown within the EOC. While some priests and churches have been accommodating, even open, others have resisted, some aggressively, forcing those seeking a more evangelical Christianity to leave the EOC for Protestant fellowships. The exodus has caused great angst in the hierarchy of the EOC.

Following a second war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), the government cracked down hard in 2001 on anything it viewed as a potential threat to national unity. They cancelled elections, closed down all independent media, rounded up and imprisoned their political opponents and repressed all civil opposition. In May 2002, reportedly at the behest of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the government also cracked down on 'foreign' and 'non-traditional' religion, banning all churches other than the state-sanctioned Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Mekane Yesus (Evangelical Lutheran) denominations.

If the EOC thought it could support a cruel, totalitarian regime's religious repression and then trust that regime to protect it, then it was naive indeed.
". . .the traitor betrays, and the destroyer destroys." (Isaiah 21:2a)

By 2005 the regime was repressing the EOC, sending its priests into military service, and removing and detaining 'dissident' priests who objected to the persecution of Medhane Alam. When EOC Patriarch Abune Antonios protested the attacks on his own church, he was removed from office (defrocked). He was placed under house arrest in January 2006 and replaced with a government political appointee, Mr Yoftahe Dimetros. Today the EOC -- its priests, properties, funds and historic manuscripts -- is under the control of the regime.

Eritrea is now one of the most repressive, human-rights-abusing states in the world. The repression has created a refugee crisis, and many of them are Christians. The Army has orders to shoot to kill anyone who tries to flee across the border. An estimated 3000 Christians, mostly Protestants, are in prison for their faith. Some are in military prisons and some have been 'disappeared' into the State's network of secret underground prisons. Prison conditions are inhumane and torture is routine. A number of Christians have died in custody and many others have been crippled and scarred for life. Eritrean authorities arrested eleven more Christians on 9 May. International Christian Concern reports that Pastor Mesfin, Pastor Tekie and Mr Isaac and his four children were arrested, as well as four women while conducting a prayer meeting in a private home in the capital, Asmara. They are all members of Faith Church of Christ which has existed in Eritrea since 1950 but was banned in 2002.

Eritrea's President Isayas Afewerki denies there is any religious persecution in Eritrea. Because there is no free media, Eritrean Christians have to risk their life and liberty to leak information of their plight to the outside world.

For more information see:

Amnesty International
Eritrea: 'You have no right to ask' - Government resists scrutiny on human rights
Index Number: AFR 64/003/2004
Date Published: 18 May 2004
This document reports on the human rights record of the Eritrean government. It covers such issues as torture, arbitrary detention, "disappearances", religious persecution, abuses of national military service conscripts, refugees and returnees, constitutional rights and international treaties and political imprisonment.


US Commission on International Religious Freedom
Annual Report 2010
Chapter on Eritrea


Christian Persecution in Eritrea
29 November 2007
This site contains a short video on religious persecution in Eritrea, featuring Eritrean gospel singer Helen Berhane, a victim of this persecution who now has asylum in Denmark.

(This post is a slightly extended version of Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 056 | Wed 19 May 2010)

[1] A World History of Christianity. Edited by Adrian Hastings. Cassell 1999, p197

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The Persecution of Palestinian Christians

Date: Tuesday 7 February 2006
Subj: Palestinian Territories - 1.
The Persecution of Palestinian Christians.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


A detailed and scholarly description of the suffering of Palestinian Christians can be found in a recently published work entitled: "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society" by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. (The monograph may be downloaded freely from this site, but it is also available through Amazon.)

Professor Weiner commences his monograph with a brief look at the wider issue of "Christians living in a Muslim world". He notes, "Despite the liberal and secular trends that gained strength from the middle of the nineteenth century, this statute [Islam] continues, to this day, to influence cultural, social, and legal practices. Moreover, the recent resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism entails a reversion to historical, cultural, and religious traditions that do not reflect modern social standards."

Pros. Weiner then narrows his focus to examine the plight of Christians under Palestinian Authority (PA) rule. He notes that the Palestinian Authority's Draft Constitution declares that "...in the State of Palestine... the religion of Islam will be the official religion", and "the Sharia will be the primary source of legislation".

As Weiner explains, the PA's promotion of Sharia (Islamic Law) immediately placed Christians in a precarious position, as Sharia does not afford them equality before the law. Escalating hardship and lawlessness, combined with the inequity of Sharia, makes Palestinian Christians exceedingly vulnerable, and their life increasingly unbearable. According to Prof. Weiner, while the intifada and the economy are significant factors forcing Christians to flee the Palestinian Territories, religious persecution at the hands of increasingly intolerant Muslims is the primary catalyst.

Prof. Weiner's research indicates that the present high rate of Christian emigration out of the Palestinian Territories is not normative, but a response to a phenomenon. He believes that the phenomenon that is driving Palestinian Christians from their homeland is the escalating hostility and persecution they are experiencing due to the dramatic escalation of Islamic extremism in the PA-administered territories. He says this is a direct result of the systematic and pervasive radicalisation of Palestinian Muslim society.

School curriculum in PA-run schools is infamous for its glorification of suicide bombers, its radical Islamic fundamentalism, its denial of Israel's right to exist, and its denigration of non-Muslims. As a pre-election Hamas video boasts, "We succeeded, with Allah's grace, to raise an ideological generation that loves death like our enemies love life." (Link 1)

For more information on the what Palestinian children and youths have been fed through PA-run schools and media, see links below.

Weirner describes the persecution of Christians as "diverse and widespread", adding that "institutionalised discrimination pervades virtually all realms of life and has become an inexorable part of Palestinian Christian existence".

In his monograph Prof. Weirner details the various forms this diverse, widespread, institutionalised discrimination and persecution takes. In summary, Christian communities and individuals suffer the following:

MARGINALISATION

The deliberate and strategic marginalisation of Christians in the Palestinian Territories is achieved by means of gerrymanders combined with Muslim immigration that alter the demographics of a formerly majority Christian area. This of course has drastic implications for local elections.

Bethlehem is a classic case. In 1990 Bethlehem was 60 percent Christian. After the PA acquired control of Bethlehem in 1994, Chairman Arafat extended the city's municipal borders to include the 30,000 Muslims living in nearby refugee camps. He also encouraged Muslims in Hebron to immigrate to Bethlehem. After nine Christians members of the Bethlehem City Council were driven to resign their posts in protest of Islamisationist policies, Arafat appointed a Muslim from Hebron as Governor of the Bethlehem District. The entire political structure of Bethlehem was then gradually cleansed of Christians. Christians are leaving. By 2001, Bethlehem was only 20 percent Christian.

BOYCOTTS AND EXTORTION

Christians suffer economic hardship as Muslims boycott their businesses. Islamic militants have also forced some Christians to close their businesses. The practice of extortion of Christian businesses is so widespread that one Christian businessman interviewed told Prof. Weiner, "There isn't a Christian businessman exempt." He said that around 90 percent of Christian businesses in Bethlehem have been forced to close. Those that remain in business are paying protection money to militants.

Christians in business in the Palestinian Territories are also harassed, beaten and robbed by PA police (Weiner cites examples). They are targeted simply because they are Christian. Refusal or inability to pay bribes can lead to torture and even death. These atrocities are committed with impunity.

NO PROPERTY RIGHTS

Prof. Weiner also explains that, in violation of international human rights norms, Palestinian Land Law prescribes the death penalty to anyone selling land to Jews. According to Weiner, Jerusalem's Arafat-appointed mufti, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri has issued a fatwa to the effect that death will be the penalty to anyone selling land to any non-Muslim. This law extends to Christians, so that they cannot sell land to each other.

In addition, adds Weiner, "...internationally recognised holy sites in the West Bank are threatened, being vandalised and desecrated by the PA without consequence." The impunity granted to those who attack Christians and Christian property only encourages Muslim criminals to break in to churches and monasteries to steal valuable items.

RAPE OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN

According to Weiner's research, violence against Christian women in the Palestinian Territories was rare before the PA took control. Christian women testify that before 1993, security was such that they could walk the streets in safety. However, after the PA took control, Christian women could be attacked with impunity. Weiner gives several reasons for the sharp rise in sexual violence against Christian women since the PA took control of the Palestinian Territories: the rise is Islamist attitudes (such as Muslim superiority and contempt of infidels); the denigration and relegation of Christians to dhimmi (second class citizen) status with limited rights and no equality before the law; combined with the PA's inaction, regardless of whether that is due to lack of authority or lack of will. Once again, Muslim criminals know they can rape Christian women without fear of retaliation or legal consequence.

Weiner reports that many Christian girls are being advised to dress as Muslims to avoid problems. "The abuse of Palestinian Christian women," writes Weiner, "extends well beyond verbal harassment and intimidation. The widespread occurrence of rape by Muslim men against Christian women exemplifies perhaps the most blatant denial of basic human rights as a result of religious identity."

One Palestinian Christian girl (aged 23) told Prof. Weiner that Muslim men often rape Christian women purely to render them undesirable to Christian men. "She can't get married, at all, after that," she said.

According to Weiner, Christian girls are also being forced into marriages with Muslim men. He retells the story of a wealthy Christian family man who had to resort to force to protect his daughter. A Muslim family came to his home, their son dressed for a wedding and accompanied by a sheikh and 15 Muslim men. They demanded that he hand his daughter over for marriage. After opening fire on the Muslim entourage, the Christian family had to immediately flee the Palestinian Territories. Other girls are less fortunate. There are even reports of PA officials leveling death threats at Christian families to force them to hand over their daughters for marriage to a Muslim.

PERVASIVE PA INCITEMENT

Prof. Weiner's research makes it clear that the negative attitudes held by Palestinian Muslims against their Christian counterparts are supported by the overwhelmingly Muslim PA leadership. Mosques broadcast sermons that drive home the Quranic injunction not to partner with, trust or befriend Jews or Christians, providing Muslims with religious justification for their religious intolerance.

Weiner quotes Joseph Farah, a Lebanese-American Christan editor of the WorldNetDaily online, as saying of Christians under the PA, "They are being driven out. They are being murdered. They are being raped. They are being systematically persecuted. They are being harassed. They are being intimidated." Weiner reports that Palestinian Christians under PA authority are discriminated against "...in the field of education, the receipt of medical benefits, and other government aid". A Lutheran pastor told Weiner, "...if food aid is brought in from Saudi Arabia, Christians are told that they are not entitled to receive any because they are not Muslims."

PA POLICE

According to Prof. Weiner, PA security personnel frequently combine ignorance of the law with Islamist sentiment to become persecutors rather than protectors. Christians are often imprisoned on trumped up charges of collaborating with Israel. Apostates can expect to be punished mercilessly through torture in PA prisons. Weiner writes, "The attitude of the police toward Christians constitutes one of the most egregious forms of institutional persecution... When subjected to harassment and worse by Muslim extremists, Palestinian Christians usually opt not to report incidents to the PA police... Palestinian Christians remain silent because they consider the PA police to be hostile to them."

ABUSE OF CHRISTIAN SITES

As has been well documented before, Islamic militants frequently choose to launch their attacks on Israel from Christian churches and homes, in order to draw the Israeli response to those sites.

CHRISTIAN DENIAL

Prof. Weiner's monograph contains material that will help people understand why Palestinian Christians are often quick to deny their suffering. Some Christian leaders deny the sufferings of Christians in order to retain privileges from the PA: for example, access to the media, or permission to travel – privileges that are granted in exchange of the dissemination of PA propaganda. Some deny the sufferings of Christians because they are simply blinded by Palestinian nationalist aspirations. But most are simply acting (or rather, not acting) out of fear of violent retribution – they are paralysed into silence by threat of terror, crippled by dhimmitude.

Weiner reports that one Christian cleric in Jerusalem compared the behaviour of Christian dhimmis to that of battered wives and children. A vulnerable, trapped, battered wife knows she cannot afford to provoke her abuser's wrath. For the victim it is easier, psychologically, to blame oneself (or to gain the approval of the abuser, blame the abuser's "enemy") and it is easier, physically, to avoid confrontation all together.

PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS: "SACRIFICIAL PAWNS"

Weiner recounts one horrific case of a Palestinian apostate and persistent evangelist named Ahmad El-Achwal, a married father of eight, who struggled for seven years with persecution that included severe torture in PA prisons (the horror of which is described in Weiner's text), as well as frequent severe beatings and death threats from Hamas. Ahmad El-Achwal was murdered on his doorstep by Islamic militants, on 21 January 2004. US State Department officials, who were fully informed, had persistently refused to address his case.

Weiner regards Palestinian Christians as the sacrificial pawns of the Middle East peace process. He writes, "The importance of monitoring the PA's record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated... The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance...," something Weiner fears is unlikely, at least in the short term.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

Teach Kids Peace. http://www.teachkidspeace.com/
Teach Kids Peace is affiliated with Middle East Media Watch. It
monitors and documents progress in children's education for peace.
This site contains analysis of Israeli and PA educational materials.
ALSO
2003 Palestinian Authority Textbook Calls for Jihad and Martyrdom
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2203
Incitement in the Palestinian Authority After the Aqaba Summit
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2003

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Eritrea: the intolerable suffering of Eritrean evangelicals.

Date: Thursday 10 June 2004
Subj: Eritrea: the intolerable suffering of Eritrean evangelicals.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


In May 2002, the Eritrean government banned all but the Sunni Muslims, Eritrean Orthodox Church, Eritrean Catholic Church and Lutheran denominations. The Full Gospel Church (Pentecostal), Assemblies of God, Kale Heywet (SIM), and all other independent and evangelical churches are now banned. A government crackdown on evangelicals (which is tacitly sanctioned by the Orthodox Church) commenced in early 2003. The persecution has been severe and is escalating.

On 24 March 2004 Compass Direct reported, "President Afwerki warned in a public speech that some religious groups in Eritrea were being deluded by foreigners to 'distract from the unity of the Eritrean people and distort the true meaning of religion.' In his remarks, delivered on 5 March during the ceremonial installation of Abune Antonios, the new patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Afwerki declared that such 'futile efforts' would not be tolerated by his government."

------------------------------------------------

On 4 June 2004, Compass Direct News reported the arrest in Eritrea of three more significant Christian leaders and one prominent, popular Christian singer. Compass Direct names those arrested as:

* HAILE NAIZGI, chairman of the Full Gospel (Mullu Wongel) Church. He was arrested at his home in Asmara on Sunday 23 May and is being held in Asmara's 1st Police Station without access to visitors. Naizgi, married with four children, previously worked as an accountant for World Vision.

* DR KIFLE GEBREMESKEL, who earned his PhD in an American university and formerly worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Asmar. He was also arrested in his home in Asmara on 23 May and is being held in Asmara's 6th Police Station. Dr Gebremeskal is also a leader in the Full Gospel Church, as well as being the chairman of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance.

* PASTOR TESFATSION HAGOS of the Rema Evangelical Church in Asmara. He was arrested on 27 May while visiting the port city of Massawa. Pastor Hagos is married with 3 children. His whereabouts is unknown.

* HELEN BERHANE, a popular Christian singer aged 29 years, has been incarcerated in a metal shipping container at the Mai Serwa military camp since 13 May. She is refusing to recant her faith or cease Christian activities. She is a member of the Rema Church and had recently released a music CD that was very popular. Her case is similar to that of another evangelical Christian singer, YONAS HAILE, who was arrested in March after releasing a Christian video. It is believed that he is incarcerated at the Sawa Military Center.

This brings the total number of Eritrean evangelicals incarcerated on account of their faith to over 400.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT

On 19 May 2004, Amnesty International released a report on Eritrea entitled "'You have no right to ask' - Government resists scrutiny on human rights." (Link 1)

Section 3, entitled "Religious Persecution", is devoted to the issue of persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses and evangelical Protestant minorities. It is a good summary and worth reading.

PRISONS

Section 4 of the AI report is entitled "Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners". It reveals the truly horrific situation of these incarcerated Christians. AI writes that conditions of detention are extremely harsh and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has no access to any Eritrean prisoners or to the prisons.

Most Christian prisoners are held in metal shipping containers brought in from the ports to accommodate the overflow of prisoners. As AI reports, "In August 2003, 57 school students on a summer vacation work project at Sawa army base were imprisoned in containers for possessing bibles and belonging to minority churches."

Compass Direct has reported that whole families and even congregations have been detained in shipping containers. This includes young children and the elderly, purely on account of their faith and their refusal to recant.

AI reports, "Prisoners held in shipping containers are locked up for almost 24 hours a day. Children are held with adults. Containers, which contain no cell furniture, are overcrowded and become extremely hot and suffocating during the day and very cold at night, with little room to sleep or move. The conditions are unhygienic and infectious diseases spread rapidly, especially through absence of toilet facilities and the prevalence of diarrhoea among prisoners forced to use a bucket inside the container for a toilet. One former prisoner told of detainees being forced to lie in diarrhoea as a punishment."

TORTURE

Amnesty International notes, "Torture is systematically practiced within the army for interrogation and punishment, particularly of conscription evaders, deserters and soldiers accused of military offences, and members of minority churches."

One torture method listed by AI is called the "Jesus Christ": "The victim is stripped to the waist [. . .] standing on a block with hands tied to a tree branch; the block is removed, leaving the victim suspended with the feet just off the ground in a crucifix-like posture. Beatings are inflicted on the bare back. This is said to be an extremely severe torture, restricted to only 10-15 minutes to avoid serious lasting injury."

The most common form of torture is "The helicopter": "The victim is tied with a rope [with] hands and feet behind the back, lying on the ground face down, outside in the hot sun, rain or freezing cold nights, stripped of upper garments. This is a punishment allocated for a particular number of days, the maximum reported being 55 days in the Dahlak Kebir island prison, but it is more often one or two weeks. The prisoner is tied in this position 24 hours a day, except for two or three short breaks for meals and toilet functions."

Electric shocks and sexual torture are also used. Christian prisoners are tortured with the aim of forcing a renunciation of faith. Multitudes of evangelical believers of all ages are enduring great suffering, including torture, in preference to renouncing their faith in, and love for, their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

ERITREAN DENIAL

In January this year, Eritrea objected to the US State Department's condemnation of Eritrea as an abuser of religious freedom. The Eritrean government defiantly declared, "Eritrea is a secular country with absolute freedom of belief." The government boasted of "peaceful coexistence and religious harmony", "freedom and rights of individuals to follow and practice their chosen religion", and that all citizens were fully legally protected from religious persecution and discrimination.

As mentioned in the most recent WEA RL Prayer bulletin, "The Eritrean government has warned leaders of the evangelical minority not to report on their suffering. Nevertheless, the churches release this information, knowing they will be harshly punished, yet hoping their brothers and sisters around the world will pray for them, and governments that believe in freedom and justice will support them."

- Elizabeth Kendal

Link

1) AI - ERITREA: "'You have no right to ask' - Government resists
scrutiny on human rights."
19 May 2004

Thursday, December 5, 2002

North Korea: Christians suffer as political prisoners.

Date: Thursday 5 December 2002
Subj: North Korea: Christians suffer as political prisoners.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


Hwang Jang-yop was once a spokesman for late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il. He has lived under the protection of South Korean intelligence since becoming the most senior defector from the North in 1997. AFP quotes Hwang as saying, "The suffering and pain of the North Korean people under the current dictatorial regime are much more severe and tragic than what we experienced during the 36 year colonial rule by the Japanese or what we went through during the Korean War." (Link 1)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report entitled "The Invisible Exodus: North Koreans in the People's Republic of China," November 2002. (Link 2) The HRW report makes no mention of religious freedom or religious persecution. Presumably HRW assumes that all
readers understand that religious belief and expression is a serious political crime in North Korea.

The HRW report, particularly sections II. "The Migrant's Story: Contours of Human Rights Abuse," and III. "A Well-founded Fear: Punishment and Labor Camps in North Korea," is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the suffering of Christians in North Korea. It is estimated that some 100,000 Christians are political prisoners in this nation that was once a land of revival, whose capital, Pyongyang, was once known as "the Jerusalem of the East."

-----------------------------------------------

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report covers all areas of experience, from escaped prisoners, defecting guards, and starving economic migrants. Through testimonies, it exposes the intolerable oppression and suffering in North Korea, the horrific, inhumane conditions in prison camps, the dangers involved in escape (such as the trafficking of women), the risks involved in assisting escapees (such as imprisonment), and the consequences for escapees who are caught and returned (imprisonment, torture and death). The report also looks at the responsibilities of China and the International community and offers recommendations.

When North Korean refugee Soon-Ok Lee testified before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on 24 January 2002, she made it very clear that Christians were regarded as "political criminals". Soon-Ok Lee said that hundreds of the 6,000 inmates in the prison camp in which she was held were there because they were Christians. She said that guards would tell the Christians they could save their lives and be freed if they would refuse to worship God and instead worship Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the Marxist regime. She also said that Christians were regularly singled out for the most extreme treatment and toughest punishments. It was the love, grace and steadfast faith of North Korean Christian prisoners in the midst of the most extreme suffering that drew Soon-Ok Lee to Jesus.

(Soon-Ok Lee's prison memoir:
Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman )

-----------------------------------------------------
A FEW EXCERPTS FROM THE HRW REPORT
Page numbers are from the printer-friendly version (pdf)
-----------------------------------------------------

* From the testimony of a former prison guard:
(page 22)

"They investigated whether the repatriated people had any relationship with South Korea. If a person met South Koreans or reporters or wrote articles, or attended church or escaped after committing a crime in North Korea, they would be secretly killed, without even God knowing."
--------------

* From the testimony of a refugee: (page 24)

"When we (HRW) asked if he had learned anything (about China or South Korea) from broadcasts, he denied watching foreign programs: 'Even watching Chinese television can be punished if discovered. If a person is found listening to South Korean broadcasting, he could be punished in a political prison or executed.' He recalled that such an execution had happened to a worker in his prefecture."
---------------

* From the testimony of a former prison guard in a political prison:

(pages 24,25)

"The basic diet was soy sauce, a little fat, cornmeal, some salt water, and perhaps some kimchee (fermented cabbage). Men and women are separated, sometimes with 300 to 400 people sleeping crowded into one room, unable to stretch their legs.

"Those who attempted to escape were held in a separate place. They were often hung on the wall all day long. Sometimes their hands were tied behind their back and they were hung on the wall for three to seven days.

"If it was a political prisoner, his hands would be broken right after he was sent to the prison of the National Security Office. They would then be interrogated. During this, they would not be able to move at all. I witnessed these types of atrocities quite often."
---------------

* From the testimony of a former prisoner:
(page 25)

"It was a savage's life, even though people there still had the minds of human beings. I cannot tell vividly enough how it was to be beaten. When our family moved there (prison), we were surrounded by one hundred people and beaten. The police led people to beat us -- newcomers must be broken in spirit this way. There are also professional 'beaters' at the town hall. They bring people there to be beaten who disobeyed the rules. Officials beat so harshly that many of those people became disabled, or their legs were paralysed, or they died.

"In these places, there are no human rights at all for women. What they call sexual harassment in South Korea is nothing. What was going on was beyond description. Everything is exposed; it was nothing to have sex openly. It may be better when a man is married, but as for women, they can't protect themselves in that situation."
----------------

* From the testimony of a former imprisoned official:
(page 27)

"The 606 camp was designated for officials charged with economic and political crimes. Conditions were harsh and inmates were treated much like to political prisoners, with no visitors allowed. He gave the following chilling account:

'During my stay there, 1,200 people were sent to the facility and I saw only seven people who left without physical injury or harm. Many people died because of an epidemic, and many others were shot to death. The facility generally released people when they believed that the person would no longer survive. Many of the detainees suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis or other diseases.

'There were about three hundred people in the camp, with a group of thirty in each room. About one hundred people were sent each month, and about ten people were dead every day. If someone didn't receive one meal per day, he would be so weak from starvation that he could not move properly. Since there were no coffins, they put the bodies on a plank and carried them to a hill and buried them.

'I cannot describe the situation properly. Can you imagine expecting the person next to you to die, and when the person dies, taking the corpse's clothing off and wearing it? Since the roof leaks on rainy days, the mattress is always wet. Lice are crawling all over the corpses, but the inmates use the blankets of dead people as soon as they die.'"
----------------

* From the testimony of a woman who escaped North Korea
, became a Christian in China, and then returned to North Korea to find her daughter in order to bring her out. According to HRW she "broke down several times as she related the ordeal": (page 10)

"I knew that after leaving North Korea and living in China, every step was dangerous. I was almost captured several times while staying at the hotel, being assisted by the church. I came to realize that God or some divine power existed after experiencing life [in China], even though it was not a very long period. So without that belief, I could not have gone back. When I crossed (the Tuman River), the water came up to my neck! I don't swim very well, and I was scared -- the water was black from flooding. Miraculously, someone came up in front of me and helped me across."
-----------------

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "North Korean defector savages Kim Jong Il regime" AFP
4 December 2002
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/021204/1/35dpa.html

2) Human Rights Watch
"The Invisible Exodus: North Koreans in the People's Republic of China,"
November 2002, Vol.14, No. 8 (C)