UN official calls on North Korea to explain what happened to US hostage
A United Nations human rights official is calling on North Korea to explain what happened to American college student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned on trumped up charges of committing a "hostile act" against the state for stealing a Communist Party banner from his hotel.
Warmbier was returned to the U.S. on Tuesday in a coma. North Korea claims that the young man came down with a case of botulism and took a sleeping pill that put him in the coma. But doctors who have examined Warmbier in the U.S. say he suffered a "severe brain injury." His condition is described as "unresponsive wakefulness" or a persistent vegetative state.
"While I welcome the news of Mr Warmbier's release, I am very concerned about his condition, and the authorities have to provide a clear explanation about what made him slip into a coma," Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said in a statement issued in Geneva.
Warmbier, from a Cincinatti suburb, was arrested for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan, North Korean media reported. On Thursday, North Korea said that it had released him "on humanitarian grounds".
The University of Virginia student's father, Fred Warmbier, said his son had been "brutalized and terrorized" by the North Korean government.
Fred Warmbier said the family did not believe North Korea's story that his son had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.
Ojea Quintana called on North Korea to "clarify the causes and circumstances" of Otto Warmbier's release.
"His case serves as a reminder of the disastrous implications of the lack of access to adequate medical treatment for prisoners in the DPRK," he said.
"His ordeal could have been prevented had he not been denied basic entitlements when he was arrested, such as access to consular officers and representation by an independent legal counsel of his choosing,” added Ojea Quintana, a lawyer and veteran U.N. rights expert.
North Korea is believed to operate political prison camps and foreign nationals have also been detained on political grounds, Ojea Quintana said. Two American university professors in Pyongyang were arrested this year for allegedly plotting anti-state acts.
Now, that's more like it. Have a problem with North Korea? Get the U.N. on it. They'll fix things in no time.
I doubt whether even the cynics who support the U.N. and see it as a force for good in the world think any request from the U.N. will be heeded by the Kim regime. Why should they? Kim would probably echo Stalin's quote about the pope: how many divisions does the U.N. command? The international community has reached its limit on what it can sanction North Korea for. Kim is impervious to international anger. And he doesn't care what people think about his sadistic prison guards beating a defenseless college student into a coma.
Perhaps, as punishment, the U.N. will deny North Korea a seat on the Human Rights Council. But given the human rights record of many members of that august body, the North Koreans would probably fit right in anyway.