Thursday, 6 December 2007

North Korea: Shot for making phone calls

North Korea has executed a man in a crowded stadium for making international phone calls, part of what a South Korean aid agency described as a resumption of public executions.

According to the Associated Press, a report from South Korean aid agency Good Friends said a factory manager was shot in front of a crowd of 150,000 people in October. (Story also here.)

The head of a factory in South Pyongan province was reportedly executed by firing squad for making international calls on 13 phones he installed in a factory basement.

Good Friends said in late November that there had been an increase in public executions, particularly of officials accused of drug trafficking, embezzlement and other crimes.

It said there had been four similar public executions of regional officials and factory heads in recent months.

"It is aimed at educating [North Koreans] to control society and prevent crimes," Good Friends head Venerable Pomnyun said.

The Associated Press said public executions had declined in North Korea since 2000, in the face of international criticism of the country's record on human rights.

It said most North Koreans were banned from communicating with the outside world.

UN vote
On 20 November a United Nations committee passed a draft resolution critical of widespread human rights violations in North Korea, including public executions, systematic torture and punishment of people for trying to leave the country.

The Third Committee of the General Assembly debated the draft resolution, moved by Japan and Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, and co-sponsored by 50 countries.

The resolution, entitled Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/62/L.37/Rev.1), called on the country to take steps to address serious violations of human rights.

According to a UN report on the meeting, the representative of North Korea "said he categorically rejected the draft resolution, which was full of false information and was being pursued for a sinister political purpose".

He said the reolution "was a part of a plot ... to eliminate his country's ideas and system".

The Committee passed the resolution by a recorded vote of 97 in favour to 23 against, with 60 abstentions.

It will be presented to the next session of the General Assembly for a final vote.

Additional information
When Amnesty International (AI) released its annual statistical survey of the death penalty in April 2008, it highlighted the execution of a North Korean factory manager. It is likely the reports from AI and Good Friends are referring to the same case.

AI's media release said he was among the people executed for crimes that were "not commonly considered criminal, or after unfair procedures".

The release said: "A 75 year-old North Korean factory manager was shot by firing squad in October for failing to declare his family background, investing his own money in the factory, appointing his children as its managers and making international phone calls."

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