DPRK Concentration Camps Survivors at Geneva Rights Summit
Survivors of North Korean Concentration Camps to Headline Geneva Rights Summit on February 19, 2013
Geneva, February 11, 2013 – The growing push by UN officials, diplomats and campaigners for an international inquiry into North Korea’s vast archipelago of political prison camps, to be debated soon at the UN Human Rights Council, will get a massive boost next week when two of the gulag’s most famous survivors will testify before a parallel Geneva summit of dissidents and democracy activists.
Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only known surviving escapee from a North Korean “total control zone” camp, will join Kang Chol-Hwan, who survived 10 years in the notorious Yodok concentration camp, to headline the 5th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, to be held on February 19, 2013.
In January, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay called for a “full-fledged international inquiry” of “serious crimes” committed by North Korea, “one of the worst human rights situations in the world.”
And last week, Marzuki Darusman, the 47-nation council’s monitor on North Korean human rights violations, seconded the call, urging an investigation of Pyongyang’s “grave, widespread and systematic violations of human rights.”
The non-governmental coalition organizing next week’s Geneva summit, comprised of UN Watch and 20 other human rights groups from around the world, are hoping that the testimonies of Shin and Kang— to be delivered before hundreds of UN diplomats, activists and journalists—will add powerful momentum to the campaign, days before world leaders gather to open the UN session.
“Shin Dong-hyuk isn’t just somebody who was sent to a concentration camp,” said CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who recently interviewed the North Korean survivor. (Watch the interview here.) “This is somebody who was born into a concentration camp. And for the majority of his life up until he was probably 22 or 23, he had no idea that there was another kind of way to exist.”
Shin told Cooper the stunning story of how he escaped from Camp 14, a brutal political prison in North Korea.
At the Feb. 19th conference, Shin and Kang will tell of the forced labor, extreme hunger, violence and brutality they suffered, and of the numerous public executions they witnessed.
Shin was made to watch his mother and brother executed. Having been born and raised within the camp’s perverted moral universe, he was the one who had informed on their plan to escape.
The North Korean survivors will be coming to the Geneva summit to join other famous activists from Cuba, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, and Syria, in a concerted effort to influence the human rights agenda.
The widely acclaimed annual human rights conference, a focal point for dissidents worldwide, is timed to take place in Geneva days before foreign ministers gather to open a month-long UN Human Rights Council session on Feb. 25, 2013.
For journalists, the global gathering provides a one-stop opportunity to hear from and interview frontline human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.
The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will, as in past years, stand in sharp contrast to the council’s diplomatic haggling over draft resolutions and reports on human rights situations around the world.
Topic areas to be addressed include discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.
For a full line-up of the parallel summit’s speakers, click here.
Now in its fifth year, the summit has won widespread coverage by major wire services and newspapers, as well as television and radio news outlets. Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at www.genevasummit.org.
Admission to this year’s February 19, 2013 summit is free to the public and media, but registration is mandatory.
For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit www.genevasummit.org.