Call for end to 'appalling' human rights violations in North Korea

North Korean army officers punch the air as they chant slogans during a rally at Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North KoreaAP

The 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War today has been met with calls for an end to human rights violations in North Korea.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide said human rights abuses in the hermit communist country were "appalling" and that the international community should increase efforts to address the situation.

The Korean War, which killed three million people, ended on 27 July 1953 in an armistice. Sixty years on, the North and South are still technically at war.

North Korea is regarded by human rights groups as one of the worst persecutors of Christians. The North Korean constitution provides for religious freedom but, in reality, believers are repressed and face torture, imprisonment and even execution.

CSW said the regime in North Korea was "brutal", with torture, rape and public executions "common".

As many as 200,000 people are being held in "dire" conditions in political prison camps in the country, the group said.

Guilt by association means that the families of those convicted for political crimes can also find themselves incarcerated.

Prisoners are subject to hard labour and defectors estimate 70 per cent of inmates to be severely malnourished.

Outside of prison, starvation and malnutrition are also "widespread" because of the government's tight control of resources and failed harvests.

Thousands of North Koreans attempt to flee across the border into China year but even those who succeed face hardship.

CSW said women defectors could fall victim to human trafficking. China refuses to recognise North Koreans as refugees and continues to repatriate them to North Korea, where they face imprisonment, torture and death on their return.

CSW's Team Leader for East Asia, Benedict Rogers said China, Laos and other transit countries should recognise North Korean defectors as refugees and give them access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"On this the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, CSW calls attention to the appalling human rights violations committed every day by the North Korean regime against its own people, including Christians who are particularly targeted for their faith," he said.

"We urge the North Korean government to immediately release all political prisoners and to close the network of prison camps. We urge the North Korean government in particular to end violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief."

CSW is part of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, which successfully lobbied the United Nations to launch an inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea.

A Commission of Inquiry was established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the "systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights" in North Korea.

Mr Rogers urged the UN to ensure the commission had the necessary resources to carry out the inquiry. He also called upon North Korea to cooperate with the commission and provide unhindered access to the country.

He went on to support parliamentary calls to the BBC World Service to start running Korean language radio broadcasts for North Korea in order to "break through the information blockade".

"Sixty years on from the end of the Korean war, it is time to act to end the North Korean regime's war against its own people," he said.