A U.K.-based Christian human rights group is urging Europe's foreign ministers to add their support to a U.N. inquiry into crimes against humanity committed in North Korea.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has written to foreign ministers of all EU member states asking them to support the establishment of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into the secluded communist country when the European Union introduces its annual resolution on the North Korean human rights situation to the U.N. General Assembly in October.
The call follows reports last week that three underground church leaders were executed by authorities in Pyungsung county, Pyongan province. Another 20 Christians were reportedly sent to hard labor camps.
CSW said there was a "prima facie case of crimes against humanity" being committed by the North Korean regime.
These crimes, it said, included murder, "intense" forced labor, the forcible transfer of people, arbitrary imprisonment, and torture.
"The use of public executions as a method of generating fear and obedience is also illegal under international law," CSW said.
The human rights group warned that prisoners were facing "systematic and severe" torture, "dire" living conditions, chronic food shortages and "brutal punishments".
CSW also highlighted how relatives of prisoners were often guilty by association, meaning that as many as 200,000 people could be incarcerated within North Korea's prison camps.
"The barbaric system is calculated to cause extreme fatigue and sickness, and refugees have stated that imprisonment in the camps amounts to nothing more than a harsh, drawn-out death sentence," CSW reported.
"Life expectancy in the camps is one to two years – the same as that in Nazi concentration camps 70 years ago."
North Korea has been named the world's worst persecutor of Christians by anti-persecution group Open Doors for the last eight years. Religion is outlawed in North Korea, where the people are expected to worship only the supreme leader, Kim Jong-il and his late father and predecessor, Kim il-sung.
The country's estimated 400,000 Christians are forced to worship behind closed doors and face imprisonment, torture or public execution if the authorities discover their faith.
"The regime in North Korea is committing the most barbaric violations of human rights and it is time that the UN General Assembly took meaningful action to prevent the continuing suffering of the North Korean people," remarked CSW's National Director Stuart Windsor.
"A Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity is an essential step towards justice and an end to impunity, and we urge the EU to support this recommendation and work proactively to achieve it."
Last week, reclusive North Korea appeared to have added Facebook to the list of social network services it has recently joined to ramp up its propaganda war against South Korea and the United States.
The account was deleted by the social networking service on Friday, but a new group sprang up over the weekend to take its place.
About a month ago it started a YouTube channel carrying clips from state television and earlier this month launched a Twitter account. The Twitter account has attracted the most interest and already has more than 10,000 followers.