'Hundreds' of North Korean execution sites identified

North Korean leader's slain half-brother was a CIA informant Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader's slain half-brother was a CIA informant Wall Street Journal

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North Korea continues to carry out state killings as a way of intimidating its citizens, campaigners said Tuesday, although the number of executions may be declining in the face of mounting worldwide pressure.

The Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) released a report that compiled four years of research into the North Korean government's human rights violations, including interviews with more than 600 North Korean defectors, according to Reuters.

"The rules on public execution demand that three shooters fire three rounds each into the body of the condemned person, for a total of nine bullets", said Seoul-based group, which seeks to highlight what is says are grievous human rights abuses by the North. While public executions were more common in the 1990s, North Korea continues to carry them out for the objective of instilling fear in the general population, the report said.

Since assuming leadership in 2011, Kim has shown a brutal side while consolidating his power, executing a slew of members of the North Korean old guard, including his uncle Jang Seong Thaek, who was convicted of treason, and senior officials accused of slighting his leadership.

A 2014 United Nations report on North Korea's human rights conditions, however, said state authorities carry out executions, "with or without trial, publicly or secretly", in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious offences.

The group found that 35 reports of public executions came from one particular river bank, with executions taking place at the unidentified location every decade since 1960s.

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Since the group that conducted the report wasn't able to visit all the North Korean locations, the survey was based on estimates, and The Associated Press could not confirm the findings independently.

Nor did it say if they were getting more or less frequent.

The group warned that the survey sample based on the testimony of defectors, was not necessarily representative.

For example, a disproportionate number of the respondents come from northern provinces with the greatest access to the Chinese border for people trying to defect. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Public executions are nearly always preceded by brief "trials" on the spot where charges are announced and sentences are issued without legal counsel for the accused, the report said.

Trump last week appeared to cast doubt on the news reports about the executions.

"Since 2005, public hangings are reported to have ceased or at least decreased markedly in frequency, with some attributing this shift to global pressure to end the practice", the report said. "They like to blame Kim Jong Un immediately".

North Korean state media called on the United States on Tuesday to "withdraw its hostile policy" towards Pyongyang or agreements made at a landmark summit in Singapore a year ago might become "a blank sheet of paper".

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