'Outrageous': North Korea lashes out at Australia's 'violations'

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·4-min read

North Korea has taken a bizarre swipe at Australia, saying it is concerned by the violation of human rights in the country.

Speaking at the United Nations assembly this week, Pyongyang representative Han Tae Song gave a list of reasons why the country was worried about Australia’s treatment of its people.

He said that his nation was “still gravely concerned about continued human rights violations in Australia” while failing to address any issues in North Korea.

During his address, Song said Australia should follow international human rights law and made three recommendations on how the nation could improve.

Pyongyang's UN ambassador Han Tae Song addresses the UN assembly.
Pyongyang's UN ambassador Han Tae Song says North Korea is concerned about Australia's human rights violations. Source: Twitter

“First, to end deep-rooted racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia on the basis of ethnic, racial, cultural or religious background in the public sphere,” Song said in a clip posted to Twitter by UN Watch.

"Two, to cease cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in public places or detention.

"Three, to ensure the right of persons with disabilities including participation in elections on an equal basis with others, and revoking of legislation, policies and practice that results in the arbitrary and indefinite detention of persons with disabilities."

North Korean UN address mocked on social media

The North Korean representative however, has been mocked on Twitter after the clip of the UN assembly emerged, with some suggesting Pyongyang concentrate on its own problems.

“In North Korea they have the death penalty for making an international phone call,” one said.

“North Korea is the last country to lecture Australia on human rights and refugees in detention. Here’s some advice to the DPRK: Get your bloody house in order before having a go at other countries,” another claimed.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma also tweeted the video of Song’s comment and said “this must be an attempt at irony?”.

Journalist Andrew Neil tweeted it was “beyond parody”.

“You couldn’t make this up,” another person commented.

Others online described the pronouncement as “top trolling” and described it as an “outrageous” comedy sketch, some even saying it “discredited” the UN.

North Korea treats people ‘less than animals’

US-based Human Rights Watch said in October torture, humiliation and coerced confessions were rampant in North Korea's pretrial detention system which treats people as worth "less than an animal".

In a report on the country's opaque legal processes which drew on interviews with dozens of former North Korean detainees and officials, the rights group called conditions at detention facilities inhuman and said they often amounted to torture.

Nuclear-armed North Korea, accused of widespread rights abuses by the United Nations and other critics, is a "closed" country and little is known about its criminal justice system.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un puts his hand on his black hat.
Kim Jong-un is the leader of North Korea. Source: Getty

Mistreatment of detainees – including beatings with a stick or kicking – was "especially harsh" in the early stages of pretrial detention, interviewees said.

"The regulations say there shouldn't be any beatings, but we need confessions during the investigation and early stages of the preliminary examination," a former police officer said.

"So you have to hit them in order to get the confession."

Former detainees said they were forced to sit still on the floor, kneeling or with their legs crossed, for as long as 16 hours a day, with even a flicker of movement leading to punishment.

The punishments ranged from hitting – using hands, sticks, or leather belts – to forcing them to run in circles around a yard up to 1000 times.

"If I or others moved (in the cell), the guards would order me or all the cellmates to extend our hands through the cell bars and would step on them repeatedly with their boots," said former detainee Park Ji Cheol.

Some female interviewees testified to rampant sexual violence at the facilities as well.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the third generation of his family to rule the country, where state surveillance is widespread and dissent not tolerated.

The country already stands accused by the UN of "systematic, widespread and gross" human rights violations that range from torture, extrajudicial killings to running prison camps.

Pyongyang maintains that it protects and promotes "genuine human rights", and says there is no justification for the West to try to set human rights standards for the rest of the world.

With AFP

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