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Freedom House Condemns Pyongyang over Reporters’ Sentencing
Freedom House denounces the North Korean regime’s decision to sentence two American reporters to 12 years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and committing an unspecified “grave crime” and calls for their immediate release.
Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March near the Chinese-North Korean border while working on a story about North Korean defectors. They were held for nearly three months, during which they had limited contact with their families and legal counsel, before being found guilty in a five-day trial that was closed to outside observers and press. They may now be subjected to the country’s notorious labor camps or used as bargaining chips to secure aid and concessions from the international community.
"These harsh sentences send a grim reminder that North Korea’s government disdains virtually every fundamental freedom and human right enshrined in international law," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "While the North Korean government thinks nothing of afflicting daily abuse on its own people, the conduct of this sham trial for two foreign nationals demonstrates a new level of aggression from Pyongyang."
The reporters’ sentencing is the latest in a series of provocative acts from Pyongyang, including a missile test in April and the detonation of a nuclear device last month. It has also refused to resume six-party talks on its nuclear program and warned South Korea that it no longer recognizes the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.
North Korea is one of the only remaining countries to maintain a system of gulags, where as many as 200,000 people face torture, rape, starvation and execution. A 2007 Freedom House report, Concentrations of Inhumanity, detailed the widespread and systematic criminal acts that take place in the camps, acts which fulfill criteria as "crimes against humanity" according to Article 7 of the (Rome) Statute of the International Criminal Court.
North Korea is also the only country to have received Freedom House’s lowest possible scores for both political rights and civil liberties throughout the 37 years in which the organization has published its annual global survey, Freedom in the World. Basic rights such as freedoms of speech, association and religion are nonexistent, earning North Korea the distinction of being the world’s most repressive society as ranked by Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst 2009 report.
North Korea is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.
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Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in North Korea since 1972.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.