Death Penalty Database

North Korea

Information current as of: June 3, 2014

General

Official Country Name

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). [1]

Geographical Region

Asia (Eastern Asia). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Retentionist. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging. [4]

Shooting. [5]

Comments.
The method of execution is not mandated by legislation (which simply provides for “extinguishing bodily life” [6] ), but reports suggest that authorities use both hanging and shooting by firing squad.

Executions are usually carried out in secret, but there are public executions to serve as an example to others. [7] A video tape of the execution of two men in March 2005 shows about 1,500 persons scattered around a rock ravine watching the two men being tied to white posts and shot from the rear by three soldiers, each of whom fired three times. [8] Before the executions, a North Korea official with a megaphone read the charges aloud and denounced them for being “traitors of the fatherland.” [9] Prisoners report that authorities at their facility would “stage public executions fifteen or twenty times” each year. [10] The Military Security Control Centre of the North Korean People’s Army conducts indoor executions. [11]

In April 2014, South Korean media reported that a senior party official had been executed by flame-thrower. In 2012, a senior military official was reportedly executed with a mortar round. [12] Such reports should be read with caution. Secrecy has increased under the regime of Kim Jong-un, and experts indicate that the North Korean “rumor mill” is “out of control.” [13]

References

[1] BBCs, Country Profiles: North Korea Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15258878, May 23, 2013.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm, Feb. 11, 2013.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[4] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Punishment and torture in the camps, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[5] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Punishment and torture in the camps, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011. The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[6] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 29, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[7] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Torture, Death Penalty and Abductions-Information Sheet, ASA 24/003/2009, Aug. 2, 2009. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[8] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 362, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[9] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 362, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[10] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 363, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[11] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Imminent execution, ASA 24/001/2007, Feb. 15, 2007.
[12] Julian Ryall, North Korean official ‘executed by flame-thrower,’ The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10750082/North-Korean-official-executed-by-flame-thrower.html, Apr. 7, 2014.
[13] Choe Sang-Hun & Rick Gladstone, Cheating Death, and the Rumor Mill, in North Korea, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/world/asia/north-korean-performer-reported-executed-appears-on-television.html?_r=0, N.Y. Times, May 19, 2014.

Country Details

Language(s)

Korean. [1]

Population

24,500,000 (U.N., 2012). [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

The number of individuals currently on death row is unknown and impossible to estimate, but it is speculated that there are many based on the number of reported executions.

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on June 21, 2017)

In February, 2017, press reported that 5 North Korean minister-level officials were executed by anti-aircraft guns. [3] It is unclear whether these executions were carried out after any judicial process or determination.

Because of the secrecy surrounding capital punishment, we are not able to offer a reliable estimate. This is the number of executions reported in the media (which often obtain their information from South Korean sources), but media reports are not always accurate.

Executions in 2016

At least 64. [4]

Because of the secrecy surrounding capital punishment, we are not able to offer a reliable estimate. This is the number of executions reported in the media (which often obtain their information from South Korean sources), but media reports are not always accurate. Earlier this year, for instance, a South Korean news source reported the execution of army chief of staff Ri Gong Gil, but the report has since proved to be inaccurate. [5] In August 2016, South Korean media reported the public execution of two senior officials and the execution of a deputy premier of education. [6] In October, South Korean media reported there had been 64 public executions in the first nine months of 2016. [7]

The real execution figure is almost certainly much higher. According to data recently released by The Korean Institute for National Unification, which is funded by the South Korean government, an estimated 1,382 executions took place in public between 2000 and 2013. [8] Amnesty International has corroborated executions in North Korea in 2016, but had insufficient information to provide a credible minimum figure. [9]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

At least 3.

Media reports, many of which obtain their information from South Korean sources, indicated that at least 3 executions were carried out in 2015. [10] The real number is almost certainly much higher. Amnesty International corroborated executions (more than one) in North Korea, but had insufficient information to provide a credible minimum figure. [11] Because of the secrecy surrounding capital punishment, we are not able to offer a reliable estimate. According to data recently released by The Korean Institute for National Unification, which is funded by the South Korean government, an estimated 1,382 executions took place in public between 2000 and 2013. [12]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

Due to the secrecy surrounding executions, we cannot offer an estimate.

Executions in 2014

2 executions have been reported in the media. [13] The true figure is very likely higher. [14] Because of the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, it is impossible to offer a reliable estimate. At the same time, news reports from North Korea regarding specific cases should be read with caution. Secrecy has increased under the regime of Kim Jong-un, and experts indicate that the North Korean “rumor mill” is “out of control.” [15]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

Given the secrecy surrounding executions, we are unable to offer a meaningful estimate.

Executions in 2013

At least 70. Amnesty International reports that at least 70 executions were carried out during the year under conditions of intense secrecy. The true number of executions is believed to be much higher. [16]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

Given the secrecy surrounding executions, we are unable to offer a meaningful estimate.

Executions in 2012

At least 6. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International recorded at least 6 confirmed executions for 2012. [17] Another organization, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), confirmed 15 executions. The real number is likely to be much higher. [18]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

Given the secrecy surrounding executions, we are unable to offer a meaningful estimate.

Executions in 2011

At least 30. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International reports that there were at least 30 executions. [19] Although media reports of death sentences and executions declined, the figure appears to be an underestimate of the actual number. [20]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

Given the secrecy surrounding executions, we are unable to offer a meaningful estimate.

Executions in 2010

At least 60. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International reports that at least 60 people were executed. There was an increase in the number of reports due to public executions that were held to serve as an example to others. [21]

Executions in 2009

At least 1. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International reports that although the actual number of executions is unknown, at least one prisoner was publicly executed in June for distributing Bibles and espionage. [22] The real number of executions is likely to be much higher.

Executions in 2008

At least 15. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International reports that there were at least 15 executions, but the true figure is estimated to be much higher. [23]

Executions in 2007

At least 1. Due to the intense secrecy surrounding capital punishment, exact figures are impossible to come by. Amnesty International reported at least one execution. [24] The real number of executions is likely to be much higher.

Year of Last Known Execution

2017. [25]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: North Korea Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15258878, May 23, 2013.
[2] BBC, Country Profiles: North Korea Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15258878, May 23, 2013.
[3] Jane Onyanga-Omara, Report: N. Korea executes officials for ‘enraging’ Kim Jong Un http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/27/report-n-korea-executes-officials-for-enraging-kim-jong-un.html, CNBC, Feb. 27, 2017. Associated Press, North Korea executes 5 senior security officials, New Straits Times, http://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/02/216029/north-korea-executes-5-senior-security-officials-seoul, Feb. 28, 2017. Euan McKirdy, North Korea executed 5 security officials, South Korea says, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/asia/north-korea-officials-executed/, CNN, Feb. 28, 2017.
[4] The Guardian, North Korea executes officials by anti-aircraft gun in new purge, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/north-korea-reportedly-executes-officials-anti-aircraft-gun-purge, Aug. 30, 2016. Choe Sang-Hun, North Korea has executed a deputy premier, Seoul Reports, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/01/world/asia/north-korea-executes-deputy-premier.html?_r=0, The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2016.
[5] AP, Ex-N. Korea army head, who Seoul said was executed, is alive, https://www.yahoo.com/news/ex-n-korea-army-head-seoul-said-executed-063401351.html, May 10, 2016.
[6] The Guardian, North Korea executes officials by anti-aircraft gun in new purge, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/north-korea-reportedly-executes-officials-anti-aircraft-gun-purge, Aug. 30, 2016. Choe Sang-Hun, North Korea has executed a deputy premier, Seoul Reports, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/01/world/asia/north-korea-executes-deputy-premier.html?_r=0, The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2016.
[7] Elizabeth Shim, Public executions on the rise in North Korea as Kim Jong Un worries about safety, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/10/20/Public-executions-on-the-rise-in-North-Korea-as-Kim-Jong-Un-worries-about-safety/5961476970354/, UPI, Oct. 20, 2016.
[8] The Guardian, North Korea has carried out 1,400 public executions since 2000, http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/jul/06/north-korea-public-executions, Jul. 6, 2015.
[9] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[10] CNN, North Korea publicly executes defense chief, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/13/asia/north-korea-executes-defense-chief, May 14, 2015. Vice News, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Executes a Turtle Farmer For 'Incompetence', https://news.vice.com/article/north-korean-leader-kim-jong-un-executes-a-turtle-farmer-for-incompetence, Jul. 8, 2015. BBC, North Korea vice-premier Choe Yong-gon ‘executed’, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-33882799, Aug. 12, 2015.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[12] The Guardian, North Korea has carried out 1,400 public executions since 2000, http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/jul/06/north-korea-public-executions, Jul. 6, 2015.
[13] Gulf News, North Korean official ‘executed by flame-thrower’, http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/north-korean-official-executed-by-flame-thrower-1.1316606, Apr. 8, 2014. Kang Mi Jin for Daily NK, North Korean ‘executed for communicating with outside world,’ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/23/north-korean-executed-for-communicating-with-outside-world, May 23, 2014.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[15] Choe Sang-Hun & Rick Gladstone, Cheating Death, and the Rumor Mill, in North Korea, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/world/asia/north-korean-performer-reported-executed-appears-on-television.html?_r=0, N.Y. Times, May 19, 2014.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[18] FIDH, The Death Penalty in North Korea: In the machinery of a totalitarian state, p. 22, http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/en-report-northkorea-high-resolution.pdf, May 16, 2013.
[19] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2011, p. 24, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2011, p. 24, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[21] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2010, p. 22, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[22] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[23] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2008, p. 8, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[24] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2007, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[25] Jane Onyanga-Omara, Report: N. Korea executes officials for ‘enraging’ Kim Jong Un http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/27/report-n-korea-executes-officials-for-enraging-kim-jong-un.html, CNBC, Feb. 27, 2017. Associated Press, North Korea executes 5 senior security officials, New Straits Times, http://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/02/216029/north-korea-executes-5-senior-security-officials-seoul, Feb. 28, 2017. Euan McKirdy, North Korea executed 5 security officials, South Korea says, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/asia/north-korea-officials-executed/, CNN, Feb. 28, 2017.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
An “especially serious” case of deliberately killing another person for base motives such as greed, jealousy or “other unjustifiable reasons” is punishable by death. [1]

Murder.
Expert reports state that simple murder is punishable by death, [2] but we were unable to find the legislative provision that sets out capital punishment for simple murder. It is likely that, as with other death-eligible offenses, a standard of “seriousness” attached to a crime of deliberate killing and left to a court’s discretion is sufficient to trigger a capital sentence.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of murdering officials or citizens for “anti-state purposes” is punishable by death. [3]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of kidnapping or inflicting an injury upon officials or citizens for “anti-state purposes” is punishable by death. [4]

Rape Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of rape is punishable by death. [5]

Robbery Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of robbery of personal assets is punishable by death. [6]

One media report suggests that stealing half a sack of rice rises to the level of seriousness required to warrant the death penalty. [7] The Korea Institute for National Unification also reported that in September 2010, a 40-year-old man was sentenced to public execution for stealing six cows, as it was considered a deliberate damage to national wealth. [8]

Kidnapping Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of kidnapping is punishable by death. [9]

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of drug trafficking is punishable by death. [10] In early 2014, media sources reported that the Criminal Code was amended to extend the death penalty to using or dealing in drugs. [11] It is unclear if the new provisions are broader than the existing law defining capital drug offenses.

Drug Possession.
While we did not find legislative provisions specifically mandating death for drug possession, the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network reported that North Korea is among the few countries that impose death sentences for possession of drugs over a certain amount. [12] It is possible that, as with other death-eligible offenses, the threshold of seriousness to be met in order to trigger a capital sentence is left open to the court’s discretion. Drug possession offenses might therefore be prosecuted as a variety of drug trafficking. In early 2014, media sources reported that the Criminal Code was amended to extend the death penalty to using or dealing in drugs. [13]

Economic Crimes Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of plundering state property, [14] robbing state property, [15] or deliberately destroying state property [16] is punishable by death. An “especially serious” case of currency counterfeiting is punishable by death. [17] A person who extensively smuggles precious metals or non-ferrous metals is subject to the death penalty. [18] Unlawfully selling a large amount of national resources to another country is punishable by death. [19]

Embezzlement, [20] fraud, [21] and black market smuggling or trafficking [22] are, according to expert and NGO reports, punishable by death.

The Database Center for North Korean Rights reported that five people involved in illegal cattle trading were publicly executed in July 2010. [23]

Treason.
Treason, which includes defection and political opposition, is punishable by death. [24] Treason is an expansive offense subjecting ill-defined crimes such as “ideological divergence,” “opposing socialism,” and “counterrevolutionary crimes.” [25] An “especially serious” case of participating in an anti-state revolution, riot, demonstration or raid is punishable by death. [26] A citizen who betrays the State and escapes to another country is subject to the death penalty, if the circumstances are deemed grave. [27] An “especially serious” case of destruction or covertly injuring or killing someone for “anti-state purposes” is punishable by death. [28] A North Korean citizen who severely oppresses the people’s movement towards national unification or liberation from imperialism, or betrays the people and sides with the imperialists is also subject to the death penalty. [29]

In early 2014, media sources reported that the Criminal Code was amended to extend the death penalty to illegal phone contact with foreigners, viewing or listening to South Korean programs or broadcasts, and aiding and abetting defectors. [30]

Espionage.
An “especially serious” case of handing over state secrets to another country is punishable by death. [31]

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
An “especially serious” case of deliberately destroying military facilities or technology is punishable by death. [32]

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
- Repeat offenders: If a person commits multiple crimes that are “especially serious,” or shows no signs of repentance, he or she is punishable by death. [33] If a convict flees after receiving a severe sentence or during the enforcement of a sentence, he or she is subject to the death penalty. [34]
- Facilitating prostitution: Organizing and facilitating prostitution while operating a restaurant or a motel is also punishable by death. [35]
- Assault: A person who deliberately inflicts a severe injury upon another person is subject to the death penalty, if the case is considered to be “especially grave.” [36]
- In a particularly vague provision, even by North Korean standards, an “especially serious” case of being a “scoundrel” is punishable by death. [37]
- Human trafficking. [38] In early 2014, media sources reported that the Criminal Code was amended to extend the death penalty to transnational human or sex trafficking. [39]

According to reports, public executions are also carried out for:
- Circulating “harmful” information. [40]
- Failure to discharge duty: An individual who hinders the country’s industry, trade or the transportation system by purposely failing to fulfill a specific duty is punishable by death. [41] For instance, a former Cabinet official who was in charge of talks with South Korea was executed by firing squad for policy failure in 2010. [42]
- Religious practice: While religious freedom is constitutionally protected, [43] in practice North Korea characterizes disseminating religious material as anti-state activity and executes those who do it. [44] Media reports have covered executions for religious offenses such as evangelism and distribution or possession of Bibles. [45]
Although we did not find specific articles legislating these offenses, they might have been prosecuted under any of the broadly-worded provisions listed above.

Comments.
As will appear from the above analysis, offenses in North Korea are defined more broadly and subjectively than in any other nation in the world, and the executive may dictate judicial outcomes, resulting in the application of the death penalty for a wide range of political offenses [46] and arbitrary application or expansion of the death penalty over time. [47] It is impossible to predict what kinds of “offenses” will be prosecuted as death-eligible, or indeed what legal provisions lead to convictions and death sentences. For instance, intelligence data submitted to Yoon Sang-hyun of the South Korea National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee indicated that Kim Chol, North Korea’s Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was executed by a firing squad in January 2012. He had been convicted for drinking alcohol during the mourning period for former leader Kim Jong-il. [48]

Moreover, capital punishment is carried out in violation of the principle of “nullum crimen sine lege” (no crime without law). Executions are carried out for crimes even where that crime is not subject to a death sentence under domestic law. [49] Extrajudicial executions are not uncommon in political prison camps where tens of thousands are detained. [50]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. But it is unclear whether this distinction is meaningful in North Korea. According to the North Korea Criminal Code and the Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, the death penalty should only be applied in the gravest cases. [51] In practice, it is obvious that North Korea applies the death penalty for trivial offenses and for actions that would not be considered criminal offenses in most parts of the world. [52] According to media reports, the state often carries out executions of common citizens who run afoul of state opinion or embarrass the state after little or no meaningful judicial process, [53] and the state carries out high-profile executions of political figures who have fallen into disfavor, also without providing any meaningful recourse to judicial process. [54] Finally, the state executes individuals for offenses that the state has failed to define as actual crimes, [55] and the judiciary is not independent and does not provide fair trials. [56] We conclude that while there is no mandatory death penalty in North Korea, the death penalty is applied in an arbitrary and perfunctory fashion and is largely a tool of oppression used by the executive. While in many cases courts do not exercise any meaningful discretion, this is not because the death penalty is mandatory, but rather because the use of the death penalty in North Korea is often essentially an extrajudicial function. For example, 30 officials who had engaged in bilateral talks with South Korea were reportedly either executed by a firing squad (or killed extrajudicially in staged traffic accidents) in July 2011. [57]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

None, there is no mandatory death penalty (see answer above on the mandatory death penalty).

In practice, the government executes individuals without meaningful recourse to judicial process. [58] This practice is most severe when the state accuses an individual of opposing its policies or opinions. [59] However, we do not believe there is any legally mandatory death penalty in North Korea.

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

Aggravated Murder.
The Korea Institute for National Unification, based in South Korea, reported that a man was executed for killing a preteen girl and eating her flesh in December 2009 during Pyongyang’s currency reform that led to massive inflation and food shortages. [60] Amnesty reports that executions were carried out for murder and cannibalism in 2013. [61]

Economic Crimes Not Resulting in Death.
Five civilians were publicly executed for illegal cattle trading in July 2010. [62] Amnesty reports that executions were carried out for embezzlement in 2013. [63]

Treason.
Treason is understood so broadly that it encompasses any kind of political dissidence. The following are examples of behavior that authorities considered to be “anti-state”.

2008: 13 women were executed in 2008 for attempting to flee to China. [64] Son Jong-nam was executed in December 2008 for communicating with organizations outside the country. [65]

2009: In June 2009, three persons were killed for fleeing to South Korea on a small boat. [66] Two officials from the Ministry of Electric Industry were executed for shutting down the electricity supply to the Sunjin Steel Mill in Kimchaek, North Hamkyung Province in February 2009. [67]

2010: A ruling party official was executed in 2010 for the crime of “conspiring to infiltrate the ranks of revolutionaries to destroy the national economy.” [68] Pak Nam Gi, former finance director of the ruling Workers’ Party, was shot in Pyongyang in March 2010 after being convicted of treason for “ruining the national economy as the son of a big landlord who infiltrated the ranks of revolutionaries” by overseeing North Korea’s currency revaluation in 2009. [69] His deputy Ri Tae Il was also executed for the redenomination’s failure. [70]

2011: Amnesty International indicated that there were unconfirmed reports in July 2011 about executions by firing squad or killing in staged traffic accidents of 30 officials who engaged in bilateral talks with South Korea. [71]

2012: In January 2012, North Korea’s Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces was reportedly executed by a firing squad after being convicted of drinking alcohol during the mourning period for former leader Kim Jong-il. [72] A media report in June 2012 stated that four of 44 North Korean fugitives who had been repatriated from China were executed. [73]

2013: Amnesty reported unconfirmed executions of political opponents of Kim Jong-un in 2013, including the execution of his uncle Jang Seong-taek as well as for escaping to China, watching banned videos from South Korea and participating in activities that countered the goals of the Korean Workers’ Party. [74] Testimony before the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea indicates that a string of executions took place in October – November 2013 targeting viewers and distributors of foreign pornography and South Korean films. [75]

2014: Ri Kyung-ho was reportedly executed in March 2014 for calling his family in South Korea and for conveying money from defectors to their families. [76]

Espionage.
Amnesty International reported that Ri Hyun-ok was publicly executed in Ryongchon on charges of distributing Bibles and espionage in June 2009. [77] Her parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp. [78]

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
- Theft: A man who stole half a sack of rice was executed in 2009. [79] The Korea Institute for National Unification also reported that in September 2010, a 40-year-old man was sentenced to public execution for stealing six cows, as it was considered a deliberate damage to national wealth. [80]
- Failure to discharge a duty: A former Cabinet official who was in charge of talks with South Korea was executed by firing squad in 2010. [81]
- Religious practice: Media reports have covered executions for religious offenses such as evangelism and distribution or possession of Bibles. [82] A woman named Ri Hyun-ok was publicly executed in Ryongchon in June 2009 for distributing Bibles and espionage. [83] Her parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp. [84] According to Amnesty International, public executions were carried out in 2009 for human trafficking and circulating “harmful” information. [85]

Comments.
Individuals are executed regularly for a variety of crimes in North Korea, but information about specific executions is not usually forthcoming. We have listed publicized executions from the last few years, but it is very likely that this list is far from complete. Moreover, news reports from North Korea regarding specific executions should be read with great caution. Secrecy has increased under the regime of Kim Jong-un, and experts indicate that the North Korean “rumor mill” is “out of control.” [86]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
The Criminal Code bans death sentences for minors who were under eighteen years of age when the crime was committed. [87] North Korea is a party to the ICCPR and has not made reservations to article 6(5) that prohibits the sentence of death for crimes committed by a person under the age of eighteen, [88] although the protections of this treaty may not be considered binding under domestic law. [89]

Pregnant Women.
The Criminal Code bans death sentences for pregnant women. [90] North Korea is a party to the ICCPR and has not made reservations to article 6(5) (barring executions of pregnant women), [91] although the protections of this treaty may not be considered binding under domestic law. [92]

Mentally Ill.
The Criminal Code excludes from criminal liability generally people who commit crimes while unable to understand their actions or unable to control themselves because of a chronic mental disease or temporary mental disorder. [93] The Criminal Code also provides that “medical measures” shall be adopted for defendants who become mentally ill during investigation, trial, or verdict, and that criminal liability shall only be imposed after the person returns to a “normal mental state.” [94]

References

[1] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 278, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[2] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 360, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[3] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 60, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[4] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 60, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[5] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 21, Dec. 19, 2007.
[6] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 22, Dec. 19, 2007.
[7] Spero News, North Korea: Death Penalty for Food Scavengers, http://www.speroforum.com/a/23367/North-Korea-Death-penalty-for-food-scavengers, Nov. 30, 2009.
[8] The Korea Herald, Think tank unveils N. Korean court ruling ordering public execution, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20110818000922, Aug. 18, 2011.
[9] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 20, Dec. 19, 2007.
[10] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, arts. 11, 12, Dec. 19, 2007.
[11] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[12] ADPAN, Lethal Injustice in Asia, p. 9, ASA 01/022/2011, Dec. 6, 2011.
[13] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[14] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 2, Dec. 19, 2007.
[15] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 3, Dec. 19, 2007.
[16] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 4, Dec. 19, 2007.
[17] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 5, Dec. 19, 2007.
[18] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 6, Dec. 19, 2007.
[19] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 8, Dec. 19, 2007.
[20] Asia Death Penalty, North Korea: Shot for making phone calls, http://asiadeathpenalty.blogspot.com/2007/12/north-korea-shot-for-making-phone-calls.html, Dec. 6, 2007.
[21] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[22] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. North Korean Economy Watch, South Korea launches reforestation campaign in North, http://www.nkeconwatch.com/category/organizaitons/maxgro-holdings/, Mar. 6, 2008. Roger Hood & Carolyn Hoyle, The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, p. 166, Oxford University Press, 4th ed., 2008.
[23] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[24] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 360, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[25] U.S. Dept. of State, 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27775.htm, Feb. 25, 2004.
[26] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 59, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[27] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 62, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[28] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 64, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[29] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 67, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[30] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[31] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 62, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[32] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 1, Dec. 19, 2007.
[33] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 23, Dec. 19, 2007.
[34] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 14, Dec. 19, 2007.
[35] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 18, Dec. 19, 2007.
[36] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 19, Dec. 19, 2007.
[37] North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, art. 17, Dec. 19, 2007.
[38] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[39] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[40] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[41] U.S. Dept. of State, 2003 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27775.htm, Feb. 25, 2004.
[42] Joe Tacopino, North Korea executes top official after poor diplomatic performance: report, Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/07/20/2010-07-20_north_korea_executes_top_official_after_poor_diplomatic_performance_report.html, Jul. 20, 2010.
[43] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 68, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[44] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[45] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. Alex Martin, North tripled executions to quell outcry, The Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/02/09/national/north-tripled-executions-to-quell-outcry/, Feb. 9, 2011. The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.
[46] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 360, Oxford University Press, 2009. U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[47] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[48] The Chosun Ilbo, N. Korean Vice Defense Chief Executed by Firing Squad, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/10/24/2012102400755.html, Oct. 24, 2012. See also, e.g., Jack Kim, North Korea Executes Official for Blunder, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62H0DT20100318, Mar. 18, 2010. Richard Parry, North Korea executes top official Pak Nam Gi who oversaw currency revaluation, The Sunday Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7066576.ece, Mar. 19, 2010.
[49] Amnesty Intl. USA, North Korea Human Rights, http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/north-korea/page.do?id=1011213, last accessed Sep. 20, 2013.
[50] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 149, POL 10/001/2013, May 23, 2013.
[51] North Korea Criminal Code, arts. 59, 60, 62, 64, 67, 278, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009. North Korea Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes, arts. 1-6, 8, 11, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, Dec. 19, 2007.
[52] Spero News, North Korea: Death Penalty for Food Scavengers, http://www.speroforum.com/a/23367/North-Korea-Death-penalty-for-food-scavengers, Nov. 30, 2009. The Korea Herald, Think tank unveils N. Korean court ruling ordering public execution, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20110818000922, Aug. 18, 2011.
[53] Alex Martin, North tripled executions to quell outcry, The Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/02/09/national/north-tripled-executions-to-quell-outcry/, Feb. 9, 2011. The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.
[54] The Chosun Ilbo, N. Korean Vice Defense Chief Executed by Firing Squad, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/10/24/2012102400755.html, Oct. 24, 2012. Jack Kim, North Korea Executes Official for Blunder, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62H0DT20100318, Mar. 18, 2010. Richard Parry, North Korea executes top official Pak Nam Gi who oversaw currency revaluation, The Sunday Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7066576.ece, Mar. 19, 2010.
[55] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[56] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[57] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2012: The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 205, POL 10/001/2012, May 24, 2012.
[58] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[59] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[60] Yonhap News, N. Korea executed at least three over cannibalism: think tank, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/05/10/76/0401000000AEN20120510005200315F.HTML, May 10, 2012.
[61] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[62] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[63] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[64] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Torture, Death Penalty and Abductions, ASA 24/003/2009, Aug. 2, 2009.
[65] U.S. Dept. of State, 2010 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eap/154388.htm, Apr. 8, 2011.
[66] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[67] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[68] Jack Kim, North Korea Executes Official for Blunder, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62H0DT20100318, Mar. 18, 2010.
[69] Richard Parry, North Korea executes top official Pak Nam Gi who oversaw currency revaluation, The Sunday Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7066576.ece, Mar. 19, 2010.
[70] Alex Martin, North tripled executions to quell outcry, The Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/02/09/national/north-tripled-executions-to-quell-outcry/, Feb. 9, 2011.
[71] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2012: The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 205, POL 10/001/2012, May 24, 2012.
[72] The Chosun Ilbo, N. Korean Vice Defense Chief Executed by Firing Squad, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/10/24/2012102400755.html, Oct. 24, 2012.
[73] AFP, North Korea ‘executes four returned refugees’, Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/9353742/North-Korea-executes-four-returned-refugees.html, Jun. 25, 2012.
[74] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[75] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, paras. 216, 218, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/CRP.1, Feb. 7, 2014.
[76] Kang Mi Jin for Daily NK, North Korean ‘executed for communicating with outside world,’ Guardian, May 23, 2014..
[77] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[78] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[79] Spero News, North Korea: Death Penalty for Food Scavengers, http://www.speroforum.com/a/23367/North-Korea-Death-penalty-for-food-scavengers, Nov. 30, 2009.
[80] The Korea Herald, Think tank unveils N. Korean court ruling ordering public execution, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20110818000922, Aug. 18, 2011.
[81] Joe Tacopino, North Korea executes top official after poor diplomatic performance: report, Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/07/20/2010-07-20_north_korea_executes_top_official_after_poor_diplomatic_performance_report.html, Jul. 20, 2010.
[82] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. Alex Martin, North tripled executions to quell outcry, The Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/02/09/national/north-tripled-executions-to-quell-outcry/, Feb. 9, 2011. The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.
[83] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[84] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[85] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010
[86] Choe Sang-Hun & Rick Gladstone, Cheating Death, and the Rumor Mill, in North Korea, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/world/asia/north-korean-performer-reported-executed-appears-on-television.html?_r=0, N.Y. Times, May 19, 2014.
[87] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 29, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[88] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 20, 2013.
[89] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[90] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 29, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[91] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 20, 2013.
[92] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[93] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 12, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[94] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 13, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

North Korea attempted to withdraw from the Covenant in 1997, but the Secretary General rejected the withdrawal notice, informing the DPRK that such withdrawal was not possible because the Convention does not provide for withdrawal absent the approval of the other parties to the Covenant. [2]

Date of Accession

Sept. 14, 1981. [3]

Signed?

No. [4]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

No. [5]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [6]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [7]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [8]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Vote

Against. [9]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [10]

Vote

Against. [11]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [12]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [13]

Vote

Against. [14]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [15]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [16]

Vote

Against. [17]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [18]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [19]

Vote

Against. [20]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [21]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [22]

Vote

Against. [23]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [24]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, p. 57, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 17, 2013.
[9] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Recorded Vote on A/C.3/71/L.27 Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, Nov. 17, 2016.
[10] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[11] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[12] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[13] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2 (Part II), Dec. 8, 2012.
[14] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[15] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[16] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2 (Part II), Dec. 8, 2010.
[17] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[18] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[19] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[20] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[21] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[22] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[23] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[24] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

The Constitution does not make direct reference to capital punishment. [1] Articles 62-86 of the Constitution, addressing fundamental rights and duties, do not explicitly guarantee the fundamental right to life or protections against arbitrariness or inhuman treatment, although Article 79 guarantees the “inviolability of the person.” [2] According to the Library of Congress, the Central Court does not exercise judicial review over the constitutionality of executive or legislative actions or have the power to protect individual rights against state actions. [3] However, the 2010 Constitution states that the prosecutor’s office assures government compliance with the Constitution. [4]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

Articles 62-86 of the Constitution discuss fundamental rights and duties, but these are largely limited to economic and social rights and do not explicitly address the right to life or protections against arbitrariness or inhuman treatment. [5] Article 15 asserts that North Korea will champion the “rights recognized by the international law” of Koreans abroad, but apart from this statement of foreign policy, the Constitution does not recognize any rights under international law applicable in the domestic sphere. [6] According to the Library of Congress, the judiciary does not exercise constitutional review. [7] The 2010 Constitution, however, states that the prosecutor’s office assures government compliance with the Constitution. [8]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

North Korea’s report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2001 indicated that it had reduced the number of criminal offences carrying the death penalty from 33 to 5. [9] The five offenses were (1) plots against national sovereignty, (2) terrorism, (3) treason against the Motherland by citizens, (4) treason against the people and (5) murder. [10] However, reports indicate that 4 of 5 were defined by such subjective criteria as to essentially be political offences. [11] On December 19, 2007, North Korea issued an “Addendum to the Criminal Code for Ordinary Crimes,” which expanded death-eligible crimes by sixteen crimes. [12] In 2012, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea indicated that the addendum functioned as a complement to the Penal Code. [13] Sixteen out of a total of 23 articles in the addendum stipulate the death penalty for crimes such as trafficking and dealing narcotics, seizing State property, currency counterfeiting, and unlawfully selling State resources. [14] After the adoption of the addendum, the total number of death-eligible crimes became 22. [15] However, media and NGO reports have corroborated that the number of death-eligible crimes is much larger in practice. [16] Offenses punishable by death are very vaguely defined and death penalty is applied to “especially serious” cases, which can be interpreted to include even petty crimes.

Amnesty International reports that many executions in North Korea are extrajudicial executions, which appear to have increased after Kim Jong-un called for a crackdown on people who attempt to escape to China. [17] Extrajudicial executions are especially prevalent in political prison camps, where public executions are carried out in front of the other prisoners. [18] In March 2013, the U.N. Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with a mandate to investigate widespread human rights abuses. In August 2013, the Commission heard testimony on regular public executions taking place in secret political prison camps. [19]

In early 2014, media sources reported that the Criminal Code was amended to extend the death penalty to 5 new offenses, including illegal phone contact with foreigners, listening to or viewing South Korean programs, using or dealing in drugs, human trafficking, and aiding and abetting defectors. [20]

There are no signs that North Korea will cease or decrease its use of capital punishment. It has voted against all of the UNGA’s moratorium resolutions on the death penalty [21] and also signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation four times in a row. [22] North Korea also rejected all recommendations by the Human Rights Council to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, end all public and extrajudicial executions, reduce the number of crimes punishable by death and respect minimum international standards such as the right to a fair trial, the limitation of the death penalty to the most serious crimes and the non-application of the death penalty to minors, pregnant women and persons suffering from mental diseases. [23]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

No. North Korea continues to carry out executions. [24]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

Information on the death penalty is considered a state secret. [25] Additionally, constitutional review of laws is the province of the office of the prosecutor (not the judiciary), [26] and the judiciary completely lacks independence and applies the death penalty at the behest of the executive even when an “offense” is not a crime under the law, [27] so its opinions might not have value as judicial precedent.

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

No judicial decisions are available. Information on the death penalty is considered a state secret. [28]

What is the clemency process?

Under Article 53 of the Criminal Code, the First Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly can grant clemency. [29]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

No. Although North Korea has lay people’s assessors in the people’s courts (which function as trial courts), they are elected by the organs of state power and therefore do not function as independent juries. [30] Additionally, North Korea’s judiciary is not independent of political influences. [31]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

North Korea has a three-tiered court system with the Central Court at the highest level, provincial or municipal courts at the intermediate level, and the people’s courts at the county level. [32] The appellate process is usually a single appeal to the next highest court. [33] The Central Court (which consists of a presiding judge, two vice-presidential judges, and an unknown number of other judges) has original jurisdiction over serious crimes against the State, so there is no appeal from a capital conviction for such a crime. [34] The provincial courts (which consist of three-judge panels) have original jurisdiction over other serious crimes, so some capital convictions may be appealed to the Central Court. [35] The people’s courts (where lay assessors are used) have original jurisdiction over most criminal cases, so it is possible that some capital convictions may ultimately be appealed only to the Provincial Court and are not heard on appeal by the highest court. [36]

According to research by the Library of Congress, the Central Court does not exercise judicial review over the constitutionality of executive or legislative actions or have the power to protect individual rights against state actions. [37] However, the 2010 Constitution states that the prosecutor’s office assures government compliance with the Constitution. [38] Older reports indicate that the judiciary does not exercise constitutional review. [39]

References

[1] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, arts. 62-86, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[2] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, arts. 62-86, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[3] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[4] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 156, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[5] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, arts. 62-86, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[6] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 15, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[7] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[8] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 156, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[9] U.N. Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: North Korea, para. 13, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001. U.S. Dept. of State, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27775.htm, Feb. 25, 2004
[10] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[11] U.N. Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: North Korea, para. 13, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001. U.S. Dept. of State, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27775.htm, Feb. 25, 2004. YTN, North Korea, Increased Death Eligible Crimes, http://www.ytn.co.kr/_ln/0101_200911232013130549, Nov. 23, 2009.
[12] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013. YTN, North Korea, Increased Death Increases Death- Eligible Crimes, http://www.ytn.co.kr/_ln/0101_200911232013130549, Nov. 23, 2009. U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[13] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[14] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[15] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[16] Joe Tacopino, North Korea executes top official after poor diplomatic performance: report, Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/07/20/2010-07-20_north_korea_executes_top_official_after_poor_diplomatic_performance_report.html, Jul. 20, 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2012, p. 23, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[18] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Camp conditions in Yodok, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[19] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[20] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[21] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007. U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008. U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010. U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[22] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008. U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009. U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011. U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[23] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, p. 20-21, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/13, Jan 4, 2010.
[24] The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.
[25] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2010, p. 22, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[26] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 156, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[27] Amnesty Intl. USA, North Korea Human Rights, http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/north-korea/page.do?id=1011213, last accessed Sep. 23, 2013.
[28] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2010, p. 22, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[29] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 53, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[30] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[31] ADPAN, Lethal Injustice in Asia, p. 17, ASA 01/022/2011, Dec. 6, 2011.
[32] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[33] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[34] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[35] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[36] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[37] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[38] The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, art. 156, Sep. 8, 1948, last amended Apr. 9, 2010.
[39] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

There are reportedly are several types of prisons, detention centers, and camps, including forced labor camps, political prison camps, correctional centers, labor reform centers, collection centers for low-level criminals, labor training centers, and interrogation facilities. [1] Political prison camps, also known as Kwanliso, detain people for a range of crimes from criticism of the leadership to listening to South Korean broadcasts. [2] An estimated 200,000 offenders and their families are held in two types of zones: Total Control Zone and Revolutionary Zone. [3] Those held in the Total Control Zone are never released, as they are considered to have committed the most serious crimes such as anti-regime crimes. [4] Sentences for detainees in the Revolutionary Zone who committed less serious crimes range from a few months to ten years. [5] We believe that persons who commit political crimes are most likely to be sentenced to death and that many death row inmates are imprisoned in political prison camps. A total of approximately 100,000 to 200,000 prisoners are held in the prison and detention system in North Korea. [6]

Description of Prison Conditions

According to the South Korea Bar Association, North Korean inmates are forced to work for 12 to 15 hours a day throughout the year. [7] Extrajudicial executions are carried out in political prison camps and detention facilities. [8] Deaths occur also as a result of forced labor without adequate access to food or medical care. [9] Although there is very limited information about the political prison camp conditions, Amnesty International’s report on the camp in Yodok (Kwanliso 15) reveals that it is barely habitable. [10] One toilet is shared by 200 prisoners, no blankets are available in the winter, and public executions are carried out in front of prisoners. [11] Detainees and prison guards reported that extreme hunger causes inmates to resort to eating snakes or rats. [12] Prisoners receive little or no food, sanitation is poor and prisoners do not change their clothes during their incarceration and are rarely able to bathe or wash their clothing. [13] We could not find information on or confirm the existence of ordinary prisons. But political prison camps are known to detain even those who have committed crimes as petty as listening to South Korean broadcasts. [14]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

By the end of our research, there were no known reports of foreign nationals on death row, [15] although this could be related to the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in North Korea. [16]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

By the end of our research, there were no known reports of foreign nationals on death row, [17] although this could be related to the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in North Korea. [18]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

There are none known but it seems highly likely that there are women under sentence of death since there were a number of recent executions of women. A woman was reportedly shot for distributing the Bible in 2009. [19] In 2008, 13 women were publicly executed for attempting to flee to China. [20]

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

We found no evidence of juveniles under sentence of death, but this could be due to the intense secrecy surrounding the application of the death penalty. [21] North Korea’s Criminal Code prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed while under the age of eighteen. [22] North Korea is a party to the ICCPR and has not made reservations to article 6(5), which bans the sentence of death for crimes committed by a person under the age of eighteen. [23] According to Amnesty International, there is no evidence that any juvenile offenders have been executed in North Korea since it began keeping records in 1990. [24]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

The ethnic composition of the country is mostly Korean. The country strictly restricts the entrance of foreigners, going so far as to force pregnant Koreans entering from China to have abortions, [25] evidencing serious discrimination against non-Koreans and an obvious intent to maintain racial purity. Based on the ethnic composition of the general population and such practices, our best guess is that most of the persons on death row are Koreans.

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

The government reportedly assigned lawyers to defendants at trial, but only to those who committed nonpolitical crimes. [26] We found no information on whether lawyers are provided prior to trial, and no evidence that independent, non-governmental defense lawyers exist. [27] We believe that most capital charges in North Korea are brought for political crimes, [28] which means that many executed prisoners may have been sentenced without legal representation or even trials.

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

We found no information on whether the state provides lawyers for indigent prisoners on appeal. There are reports that in any event, authorities only provide lawyers and trials to non-political offenders. Citizens suspected of committing political crimes are taken to prison camps without trial [29] and are unlikely to be provided with any possibility of appeal.

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

Defense lawyers reportedly do not serve as advocates of the defendant but more as “independent” parties to help persuade the accused to admit guilt, [30] although they do present evidence to mitigate punishment. [31] However, lawyers are reportedly assigned only to those accused of nonpolitical crimes. [32] There are no reports of independent or nongovernmental defense lawyers. [33]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

North Korea’s justice system exists mainly to promote the interest of the regime, and the judges and lawyers act on the orders of the Party. [34] North Korean authorities often use torture to extract confessions, and many persons have been executed without receiving the benefit of a fair trial [35] – or indeed, any trial at all. [36] Alleged torture includes beating defendants with iron chains, rubber belts and wooden sticks. [37] Others are tied with ropes, hanged upside down and subjected to electric shocks. [38] Such abuse seriously undermines the legitimacy of any confession or conviction. Also, the State makes every member of a household accountable for the conduct of his immediate kin (although it is unlikely that the state executes kin for a relative’s crimes), while some criminal suspects escape punishment because of their family background. [39] For example, the families of the twelve performers who were executed in August 2013 were sent to prison camps under the principle of guilt by association. [40]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[2] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Kwanliso (political prison camps), ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[3] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Kwanliso (political prison camps), ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[4] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Kwanliso (political prison camps), ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[5] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Kwanliso (political prison camps), ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[6] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[7] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 363, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 149, POL 10/001/2013, May 23, 2013.
[9] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 149, POL 10/001/2013, May 23, 2013.
[10] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[11] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Camp conditions in Yodok, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[12] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Hunger, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[13] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[14] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[15] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[17] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[18] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[19] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2009, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[20] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Torture, Death Penalty and Abductions, ASA 24/003/2009, Aug. 2, 2009.
[21] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 25, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[22] North Korea Criminal Code, art. 29, Mar. 3, 1950, last amended Oct. 19, 2009.
[23] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Sep. 20, 2013.
[24] Amnesty Intl., Executions of juveniles since 1990, http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty/executions-of-child-offenders-since-1990, last accessed Oct. 2, 2013.
[25] U.S. Dept. of State, 2003 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27775.htm, Feb. 25, 2004.
[26] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Trial Procedures, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[27] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Trial Procedures, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[28] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[29] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[30] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[31] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[32] The Library of Congress, A Country Study: North Korea, The Judiciary, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+kp0162), Jun., 1993.
[33] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Trial Procedures, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/eap/204210.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[34] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 361, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[35] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 362, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[36] Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, Camp conditions in Yodok, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.
[37] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 362, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[38] David Johnson & Franklin Zimrin, The Next Frontier, p. 361, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[39] David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, p. 362, Oxford University Press, 2009.
[40] The Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong-un’s Ex-Girlfirend ‘Shot by Firing Squad’, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html, Aug. 29, 2013.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee concluded in its 2001 observations that it welcomed the reduction of the number of criminal offenses carrying the death penalty from 33 to 5 and the country’s expressed readiness to review capital punishment with a view to its abolition. [1] (In 2007, however, North Korea added 17 death-eligible crimes to its Criminal Code, [2] and in 2014 media sources reported that an additional 6 capital offenses were added. [3] ) The Human Rights Committee was concerned that political offenses were the main crimes that were punishable by death and that their terms were so broad that the imposition of the death penalty may be subject to essentially subjective criteria, and not confined to “the most serious crimes” only as required under article 6(2) of the Covenant. [4] The Committee was also concerned at acknowledged and reported instances of public executions. [5] It recommended that North Korea review and amend the Criminal Code to bring it into conformity with the requirements of article 6(2) of the Covenant. [6]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

In March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea to investigate widespread and systematic human rights abuses with a view to ensuring accountability for violations that could amount to crimes against humanity. In its final report in February 2014, the Commission described “gross human rights violations” involving detention, executions and disappearances as “characterized by a high degree of centralized coordination between different parts of the extensive security apparatus.” [7] People suspected of political offenses are detained incommunicado and their families are not informed of their fate, even if they die. [8] The Commission compared conditions in North Korea’s secret political prison camps to “the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.” [9] The Commission “concluded that “[a]s a matter of State policy, the 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 crimes.” [10] It found that public executions and enforced disappearances are key elements in the state’s vast security apparatus that uses fear, coercion and punishment to preclude political dissent. [11] The Commission recommended that the government declare an immediate moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty. [12]

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea identified violation of the right to life, particularly the abusive application of the death penalty and the use of public executions, as one of the key human rights violations in North Korea. [13] In his February 2013 report, the Special Rapporteur indicated that the UN General Assembly has repeatedly expressed concern at the application of capital punishment for political and religious reasons. [14] He also pointed out the vagueness of the terms used in death penalty provisions that allow for the imposition of the death penalty to be subjective and arbitrary. [15] Both the UN Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur recommended that North Korea end public executions and adopt a moratorium on the death penalty. [16]

In a report issued in September 2011, the UN Secretary-General expressed concern over the vagueness of political offense provisions that could lead to the subjective and arbitrary imposition of the death penalty, as well as the inadequate prison camp conditions. [17]

The Human Rights Council, in its 2010 Universal Periodic Review, recommended that North Korea establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, end all public and extrajudicial executions, reduce the number of crimes punishable by the death sentence and respect minimum international standards such as the right to a fair trial, the limitation of the death penalty to the most serious crimes and the non-application of the death penalty to minors, pregnant women and persons suffering from mental diseases. [18] North Korea rejected all recommendations. [19] North Korean representatives told the UN Human Rights Council that public executions were carried out to punish “very brutal violent crimes” and used “in very exceptional cases,” often at the request of the victims’ families and relatives [20] - despite media coverage to the contrary.

References

[1] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, p. 2, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001.
[2] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[3] Kang Mi Jin, Criminal Code Inciting Border Fears, Daily NK, http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=11885, May 21, 2014.
[4] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, p. 2, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001.
[5] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, p. 3, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001.
[6] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, p. 3, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/PRK, Aug. 27, 2001.
[7] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 57, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[8] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 59, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[9] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 60, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[10] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 63, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[11] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 83, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[12] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, para. 89(d), U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/63, Feb. 7, 2014.
[13] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 6(g), U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[14] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 9, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[15] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 89, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[16] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, para. 92, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013.
[17] U.N.G.A., Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Report of the Secretary-General, para. 17, 33, U.N. Doc. A/66/343, Sep. 7, 2011.
[18] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, p. 20-21, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/13, Jan 4, 2010.
[19] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, p. 20-21, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/13, Jan 4, 2010.
[20] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, p. 12, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/13, Jan 4, 2010.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
Gonghwangdang Building 10th fl. 7-2
Chungjeongro 2-ga Seodaemun-gu
Seoul, 120-012 South Korea
Tel: +82-2-723-1672
Fax: +82-2-723-1671
bongsa@nkhumanrights.or.kr
http://eng.nkhumanrights.or.kr/main.htm

U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
1001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 435
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Tel: +1-202-499-7970
Fax: +1-202-758-2348
http://www.hrnk.org/
committee@hrnk.org

Helpful Reports and Publications

Amnesty Intl., North Korea: Political Prison Camps, ASA 24/001/2011, May 3, 2011.

David Johnson & Franklin Zimring, The Next Frontier, Oxford University Press, 2009.

U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/57, Feb. 1, 2013. (The Special Rapporteur regularly publishes human rights reports every six months, which can be accessed at http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/asiaregion/pages/kpindex.aspx)

Additional notes regarding this country

Given the level of secrecy surrounding the application of the death penalty in North Korea, reliable data are scarce. We have utilized the best available sources in compiling the data presented here.

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