Satellite images of one of North Korea’s largest political prison camps suggest its inmate population is expanding.
The images are included in a report by Amnesty International which includes what is a rare testimony from a former camp guard as well as from former inmates about the brutality in the prison system.
“For Amnesty International, which has been investigating human rights violations for the last 50 years we find North Korea to be in a category of its own,” said Rajiv Narayan the London-based rights watchdog’s East Asia researcher.
North Korea denies the existence of the political prison camps often referred to as ‘gulags’. Estimates vary from between 100,000 and 200,000 as to the total held in the camps.
The images, taken over a two-year period, were of Camp 15 in the south of the country and Camp 16 in the north.
Amnesty estimated the size of Camp 16 is three times that of the US capital Washington DC with around 20,000 prisoners.
A former security guard based at the camp from the 1980s until the mid-1990s, named only as Lee in the report, told Amnesty of the methods used to execute prisoners.
He said detainees were forced to dig their own graves and were then killed with hammer blows to their necks.
The recent images of Camp 15 show that 39 housing blocks have been demolished since Amnesty International last assessed satellite pictures of the camp two years ago.