North lax on death sentence: Report

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North lax on death sentence: Report

North Korea has continued to maintain a terrifyingly tight grip over its citizenry by imposing capital punishment for a wide range of offenses despite claiming the opposite in a 2014 report to the United Nations, South Korea’s Institute for National Unification said.

According to the state-run organization’s 2015 white paper on the human rights situation in North Korea, the regime carried out a total of 1,382 public executions between 2000 and 2014, a finding that sharply contrasts with North Korea’s claim that it only conducts executions on extremely rare occasions.

“In its human rights report to the UN in January 2014, North Korea argued that it carries out executions only in exceptional cases. But the findings show that it still puts people to death for a wide range of crimes [that do not deserve such punishment],” the paper said.

The institute noted that North Korea executed 161 people in 2008, and 160 people in 2009 - all public killings. However, the figure has remained below that level since.

The regime executed 131 people in 2011; 21 people in 2012; and 82 people in 2013.

It put five convicts on death row last year.

The institute added that the country’s capital punishment policy goes against the human rights mandates set by the UN Human Rights Commission.

To produce its latest paper, the 20th of its kind, the organization conducted interviews with 221 North Korean defectors who came to South Korea last year, some of whom testified that they had witnessed public executions for convicts sentenced to death because they had watched South Korean dramas or distributed them to others.

The report also states that others were executed on charges of drug trafficking or sexual assault, testimonies that run counter to the North’s claim last year about its execution standard.

Regarding the North’s operation of political prison camps, the white paper noted that human rights violations are still rampant.

It added that since reports of state-orchestrated abuses had been made public, the North appeared to be extra cautious in making sure that news of the executions were not leaked from the camps, citing the testimonies from the defectors.

The study also revealed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had become more lenient, according to interviews with North Koreans who had escaped to the South following their release from political prison camps in 2012 and 2013.

Some recalled watching condemned criminals commuted and released on last-minute orders, bolstering speculation that Kim was exercising his authority above the law.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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