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Kim Jong-un’s security forces have created tightly-regulated buffer zones at the country’s borders as part of lockdown measures introduced at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Police orders obtained by media outlets state those entering the buffer zones without permission “will be unconditionally shot”. The orders say anyone seen on the North Korean side of border rivers will be “shot without prior notice”.
Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life
Legal experts said issuing a shoot-on-sight order outside an armed conflict is a serious violation of international human rights laws.
The United Nations states security forces shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms” and that if the lawful use of firearms is unavoidable officials should “exercise restraint in such use”.
The UN directive makes it clear “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life”.
Security personnel who carry out out shoot-on-sight commands can be held liable for the killings as well the authorities that gave the orders.
Kim’s security forces are also understood to have been laying landmines across the buffer zones.
A military source told Radio Free Asia: “They’ve been setting up landmines in the North Korea-China border area of Ryanggang province since early this month, in accordance with the supreme command’s orders.
“It’s been less than 15 days since they started deploying the mines, but one exploded while some soldiers were burying it, and about a dozen soldiers were injured, some in their eyes, legs or back.
“We’re one of the provinces located farthest from the armistice line, so residents of the border area are on high alert.”
Kim’s border policies were brought into focus after a South Korean man was shot dead in North Korean waters.
Pyongyang said the shooting was a self-defensive measure amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who went missing in late September, before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire, South Korea’s military have said.
Seoul has called for a joint investigation after North Korea said it burned a floatation device the man was using, not his body, amid public and political outrage.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency accused South Korean opposition lawmakers of stoking controversy over the issue, blaming Seoul for failing to stop him from crossing the maritime border.
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KCNA said: “Our soldier could not but take self-defensive measure as he judged that the south Korean citizen who had made an illegal intrusion into the waters under the control of our side was about to flee, not responding to interception.
“The incident was the result of improper control of the citizen by the south side in the sensitive hotspot at a time when there are tension and danger due to the vicious virus sweeping the whole of South Korea.
“Therefore, the blame for the incident first rests with the South side.”
South Korea’s military has said the man was attempting to defect to the North when he was reported missing from a fisheries boat just south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed demarcation of military control that acts as the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.
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