North Korea: Stories From The Forgotten Prisons

Explore the system of political prison camps in North Korea

Explore the system of political prison camps in North Korea

This is the first of several postings of the North Korea Revealed blogging series, published in the context of efforts to establish a Commission of Inquiry at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 25 – March 22). Join the conversation through #NKRevealed.

I was born in North Korea in 1982. I was born in a political prison camp (…) and lived there until I escaped in 2005 (…) I was born to an imprisoned mother and father. —Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known North Korean born in a political prison camp to have escaped.

Shin’s shocking story personifies the horrors of North Korea’s vast network of political prison camps, believed to house over a hundred thousand prisoners. His story is emblematic for the daily forced hard labor, calculated starvation and torture that prisoners have to endure. It also reflects the system of collective punishment that results in the incarceration of several generations of one family, often for life. You can hear more from Shin on a new video playlist, together with testimonies of other escapees and exiles. Their voices urge immediate action to stop the horrors of the prison camps. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

New technology demonstrates extreme lack of progress in Gulf Coast reconstruction

Technology has been a driving force as of late, to document a variety of things related to human rights from political violence in Kenya, to the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, caused flooding and widespread damage to the Gulf Coast. More than 1,800 people from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama died in the storm. Approximately 1,000,000 people were displaced from the Gulf Coast region.

Nearly five years later, in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast, there is a continued lack of access to housing and health care, and issues related to the criminal justice system persist. Amnesty International is committed to raising awareness about the slow progress in housing recovery, as well as the demolition of public housing, and the problems of blight and homelessness in the city of New Orleans. Recent estimates of homelessness in New Orleans have ranged from nearly 10,000 individuals and families to 12,000. If so many are still homeless, where are houses being rebuilt, and who can actually afford them?

Now, thanks to technology, you can track the progress of Gulf Coast reconstruction with the Google Earth layer created by Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights (SHR) Program. These geo-referenced photos highlight the extent of the destruction and the lack of progress in rebuilding in the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. You can download the kml file of the lower Ninth Ward and use geo-visualization software, such as Google Earth, to see for yourself the full extent of the damage and the amount of work that remains to be done.

AI’s Rebuilding the Gulf project has been active in working to protect human rights in the Gulf Coast by focusing on promoting a broader range of human rights concerns that arise in disaster affected areas. Learn more about our work in the Gulf Coast and take action to reform federal disaster legislation to ensure that the human rights of those impacted by future disasters are protected.



Sung In Marshall contributed to this post.

Beaches, Palm Trees, Displacement – Welcome to Sri Lanka's War Zone

A glimpse of the former war zone in northeastern Sri Lanka (c) AIUSA. Screenshot taken from Google Earth

A glimpse of the former war zone in northeastern Sri Lanka (c) AIUSA. Screenshot taken from Google Earth

Amnesty’s Science for Human Rights project just released a satellite image of Menik Farm in Sri Lanka, a de-facto internment camp run by the military, which offers a rare glimpse of the massive displacement caused by the conflict. Mark Cutts, the UN official at Menik Farm, recently told the BBC that “nothing less than a new city had been created.”

Through this image, along with aerial photographs displaying the devastation in the so called “safe zone”, we want to offer the public a rare opportunity to see on the ground details in a country where journalists and international monitors are widely prohibited from documenting the results of the recent military showdown. Graves, shelters and a shipwreck are among the things visible on the aerial photographs. We have combined all this information in a Google Earth Layer (recent version of Google Earth required), in order to give activists around the world access – something the government of Sri Lanka is denying us so far–  and to call for accountability for the crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. (Many thanks to AAAS and Ogle Earth for their help in putting this project together).

Satellite image and photograph of Menik Farm. (c) AIUSA, Screenshot taken from Google Earth

Satellite image and photograph of Menik Farm. (c) AIUSA, Screenshot taken from Google Earth

U.N. emergency relief coordinator John Holmes recently described IDP camps in Sri Lanka as “internment camps”, stating that people are not allowed to move freely in and out. The people in Menik Farm are being vetted by the government to determine if there are any links to the Tamil Tigers.

We continue to closely to monitor the situation on the ground, so stay tuned for further information.