US designates N.Korean Defence Minister for human rights violations

International |  IANS  | Published :

Seoul/Washington, Dec 11 (IANS) The US has designated North Korea's new Defence Minister Ri Yong-gil and a number of other entities in Pyongyang, China and Russia for human rights violations.

The Department of Treasury also designated North Korea's Central Public Prosecutors Office, Yonhap News Agency reported on Saturday.

Ri was designated for his role as the former head of minister of social security, which, the Department said, uses the court system to "prosecute and punish persons for political wrongdoing in a legal process involving fundamentally unfair trials".

"These trials sometimes end in sentencing to the DPRK's notorious prison camps, run by the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Social Security," it said, while noting the death of Otto Warmbier, an American university student who died in 2017 after returning home following a year-long detention in North Korea.

DPRK or Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

"The treatment and eventual death of Otto Warmbier, who would have turned 27 years old this year, were reprehensible. The DPRK must continue to be held to account for its abysmal human rights record," the Department said.

It also designated a number of individuals and organisations in China and Russia for violating UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit UN member states from employing or hosting North Korean workers.

The Department noted those illegally employing North Korean workers often contribute to the poor treatment of those workers that include "constant surveillance" and having a significant portion of their wages confiscated by the DPRK regime".

Those newly designated include the European Institute of Justice, a Russian university based in Moscow, and its provost, Dmitry Yurevich Soin, who, according to the Treasury Department, "sponsored hundreds of student visas for DPRK construction workers in Russia".

The Department also designated SEK Studio, a North Korean animation studio with workers in North Korea and China.

Lu Hezheng, a senior employee and former shareholder of Nings Cartoon Studio in China, worked with representatives of SEK Studio to facilitate wire transfers through Nings Cartoon Studio and other front companies in China, according to the Department.

It designated Lu and a range of companies affiliated with him, including Nings Cartoon Studio and Shanghai Hongman Cartoon and Animation Design Studio.

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