On Wednesday, the US for the first time sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for “notorious abuses of human rights,” a decision that prompted the hermit kingdom to call the sanctions a “declaration of war.”
The sanctions affect 10 other individuals besides the North Korean leader, five government ministries and departments, and property within US jurisdiction, according to the US Treasury Department statement.
“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement.
“Considering the sanctions name Kim Jong Un, the reaction from Pyongyang will be epic,” Michael Madden an expert on North Korean leadership told Reuters. “There will be numerous official and state media denunciations, which will target the U.S. and Seoul, and the wording will be vituperative and blistering.”
Here are some of the offenses outlined in the US Treasury Department statement:
The Ministry of State Security engages in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in detention centers. This inhumane treatment includes beatings, forced starvation, sexual assault, forced abortions, and infanticide.
According to the State Department report, the ministry is the lead agency investigating political crimes and administering the country’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people, including children and other family members of the accused. In addition, the Ministry of State Security’s Prisons Bureau is responsible for the management and control of political prisoners and their confinement facilities throughout North Korea.
The Ministry of People’s Security operates a network of police stations and interrogation detention centers, including labor camps, throughout North Korea. During interrogations, suspects are systematically degraded, intimidated, and tortured.
The Ministry of People’s Security’s Correctional Bureau supervises labor camps (kyohwaso) and other detention facilities, where human rights abuses occur such as those involving torture, execution, rape, starvation, forced labor, and lack of medical care. The State Department report cites defectors who have regularly reported that the ministry uses torture and other forms of abuse to extract confessions, including techniques involving sexual violence, hanging individuals from the ceiling for extended periods of time, prolonged periods of exposure, and severe beatings.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry called on China to urge North Korea to cooperate on human rights standards.
“China’s engagement is critical,” Kerry said during a news conference while visiting Kiev. Kerry also added that the US is “ready and prepared” to return to discussions of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program.