North Korea: ‘We were forced to eat grass and soil’

Story highlights

Report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry released Monday

Testimony by North Koreans refugees presents bleak portrait of human rights in regime

Witnesses tell of inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, abuse and starvation

Pyongyang has refused to participate in the investigation, condemning it as a "charade"

CNN  — 

The testimonies, one after another, have been damning, disturbing and, at points, excruciating.

A North Korean prison camp survivor told of a pregnant woman in a condition of near-starvation who gave birth to a baby – a new life born against all odds in a grim camp. A security agent heard the baby’s cries and beat the mother as a punishment.

She begged him to let her keep the baby, but he kept beating her.

With shaking hands, the mother was forced to pick up her newborn and put the baby face down in water until the cries stopped and a water bubble formed from the newborn’s mouth.

It’s just one example of the kind of testimony heard during an 11-month inquiry into alleged violations of human rights in North Korea, and documented in a report released by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights on Monday.

The commission concluded that North Korea has committed crimes against humanity. The commission investigated issues regarding the right to food, prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances, including abductions of other citizens.

The panel reported a stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans that reveal a portrait of a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

It remains to be seen what impact the report might have and whether China, a member of the U.N. Security Council and staunch ally of North Korea, will block action seeking human rights redress.

Collection of evidence

Since its creation last year, the commission of inqui