The brutality of prison camps in North Korea is on par with that of Nazi concentration camps, says Thomas Buergenthal, a former judge on the International Court of Justice who is now serving on a panel of human rights investigators probing whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should be tried for crimes against humanity. Buergenthal is also a survivor of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps as well as a Nazi ghetto in Poland.
"I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field," Buergenthal said after the panel completed its review.
"There is not a comparable situation anywhere in the world, past or present," said another panelist, Navi Pillay, a South African judge who served as the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights. "This is really an atrocity at the maximum level," Pillay added, "where the whole population is subject to intimidation."
The panel's investigation was initiated by the International Bar Association and examined testimony from experts as well as North Korean defectors, including camp prisoners and guards. A full report of the probe's findings will be published Tuesday.
15 February 2023: This article has been amended. The end of the first paragraph now reads "Nazi ghetto in Poland" instead of "Polish ghetto".