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The United Nations confirms that torture and forced labor are widespread in North Korea's prisons

The United Nations office for human rights said today, Tuesday, that torture and forced labor are widespread in North Korea's prisons, which amounts to potential crimes against humanity, while the administration of US President Joe Biden is considering imposing new sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The report, issued seven years after a landmark investigation conducted by the United Nations and concluded that crimes against humanity continued, stated that political detention camps run by the security forces are still in place despite the scarcity of information.

"Not only does impunity prevail, but human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity continue to be committed," Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

Bachelet urged world powers to seek justice and prevent further violations. The report called on the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court or to establish a special court.

"Accountability for gross human rights violations and ongoing crimes against humanity should not be a secondary consideration in pushing North Korea to the negotiating table," UNHCR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told Reuters.

Speaking on NBC, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Monday that additional sanctions could be used against North Korea in coordination with US allies as a way to denuclearize the divided peninsula. Other tools, he added, include unspecified diplomatic incentives.

North Korea denies the existence of political detention camps and condemned last July Britain's announcement of imposing sanctions on two organizations that the British government said were involved in forced labor, torture and murder in those camps.

The UN report, citing interviews with former detainees, stated that it continued to receive "consistent and credible accounts of severe physical and mental pain or suffering of detainees through beatings, stress and starvation situations in places of detention."

The report stated that this confirms the findings of the 2014 UN investigation headed by former Australian Judge Michael Kirby, "and indicates that crimes of torture against humanity are still being committed in the regular prison system."

The report added that forced labor, "a system of slavery that may amount to a crime against humanity," is still present in prisons.

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