Europe should press the UN on North Korea’s human rights abuses ǀ View

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Opinion piece by Louis Charbonneau

The image of a comatose Otto Warmbier being carried off a plane in the United States in June 2017 offered a glimpse of life – and death – in North Korea. Warmbier was a 22-year-old American university student who died from unexplained injuries sustained in a North Korean prison while serving a sentence of 15 years of hard labour after he took a political banner from his Pyongyang hotel. During his 17 months in detention, Warmbier may have endured the kind of physical abuse and torture North Korean detainees commonly receive.

But the US has stepped back on keeping the issue of North Korea’s abuses in front of the UN Security Council. The help of other countries, especially from Europe, is desperately needed.

Five years ago, a United Nations commission of inquiry delivered a terrifying report on imprisonment, enslavement, murder, torture, rape and forced abortion in North Korea. The “gravity, scale and nature of these violations” amounted to crimes against humanity by a state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The impossibility of holding responsible North Korean leaders to account led the commission to recommend that the UN Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since the release of that report, the Security Council has met every December to discuss its gruesome findings. China, North Korea’s ally, protector and a permanent council member, along with…



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