North Korea: Border guards face execution for aiding escape to China

Fears raised after reprieve for Kim Jong-il’s birthday expires

Amnesty International is extremely concerned that two border guards in North Korea are at immediate risk of execution for helping North Koreans enter China.

In recent years thousands of people have fled starvation and repression in North Korea, seeking sanctuary in China - something they have done at risk of imprisonment in a labour camp.

The two men, a commander and a vice-commander of a border guard post in North Hamgyong province, were arrested following an official investigation into the flow of North Koreans across the border into China.

The men, whose names are unknown, were originally due to be executed in January, but their executions were postponed until after the 65th birthday of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-il’s birthday, a national holiday in North Korea, occurred on 16 February, and Amnesty International now fears the men may be executed at any time.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“These men are at now at serious risk and Amnesty International is calling on the North Korean authorities to guarantee they will not be executed.

“Use of the death penalty in North Korea is totally shrouded in secrecy, but on this occasion we hope that international pressure will lead to a reprieve from execution.”

Amnesty International has issued an ‘urgent action’ appeal on behalf of the men, with supporters around the world sending appeals directly to Kim Jong-il, as well as North Korea’s officials in London and at the United Nations.

While reliable information about the death penalty is difficult to acquire in relation to numerous countries around the world, capital punishment in North Korea is especially secretive. Limited reports have however indicated that at least 70 people were executed in the country in 2005 (the real figure is liable to be far higher), both by firing squad and by hanging, with some people reportedly executed in public.

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