DPR Korea: UN experts call for death penalty moratorium after high-profile execution

Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

18 December 2013 – The recent execution of a senior official in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) “is just one among multiple executions” reported in the country since August, carried out with total disregard of due process and other international human rights standards, United Nations independent experts said today, calling on the Government to immediately halt the practice.

“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 Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the 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”, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

According to the 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.

Mr. Darusman also expressed particular concern about the practice of “guilt by association” in the country. 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 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,” Mr. Darusman added.

His condemnation was echoed by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, as well as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, who has endorsed the concerns.

“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.”

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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