‘This entire trial has been shrouded in secrecy’ - Arnold Fang
The government of North Korea must immediately disclose all details in the case of US citizen Kim Dong-chul who has been sentenced to ten years’ hard labour for “spying”, insisted Amnesty International.
Amnesty said the case appears to be yet another politically-motivated decision.
According to North Korean state media, Kim, who was born in South Korea, was arrested while trying to receive a USB drive containing sensitive military information.
The 62-year-old is the latest foreigner to be sentenced to hard labour in North Korea. Foreigners arrested in North Korea typically have no access to lawyers or family while in detention, and are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment as well as often being forced to make public “confessions” in front of reporters.
Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher Arnold Fang said:
“This entire trial has been shrouded in secrecy, and the North Korean authorities must present the evidence for these alleged crimes and make court proceedings fully transparent, so that the international community can see whether a fair trial took place.
“The timing of this sentence, amid increasing international tension, calls into question the motivation behind the proceedings. The judicial system is notoriously political, and foreign nationals in particular are very unlikely to receive a fair trial in the country.”
Foreigners at risk
Three foreigners in North Korea have now been handed long jail terms in recent months, as fresh UN sanctions were authorised on the country and North Korea carried out several missile tests. Hyeon Soo Lim, a Canadian pastor, was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour for the alleged crime of “subversion” in December. Meanwhile, US student Frederick Otto Warmbier was also convicted of subversion and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in March, despite only admitting to the theft of a propaganda banner while staying in a hotel in Pyongyang. These cases also come in the lead-up to the first Korean Worker’s Party Congress since 1980, on May 6, when international attention on North Korea is also likely to increase.
Hundreds of thousands of people in North Korea are detained in the country’s notorious political prison camps where they’re subjected to systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations such as torture and forced labour. Many of those held in the camps have not been convicted of an internationally-recognisable criminal offence, and instead have been detained through “guilt-by-association” - ie for being related to individuals deemed threatening to the state.