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Date : June 23, 2017
ICNK Statement on the Tragic Death of US Student Otto Warmbier

Statement on the Tragic Death of US Student Otto Warmbier


(Seoul – June 23, 2017) -- The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) expresses its profound sadness and concern over the death of US citizen Otto Warmbier.

“It makes Mr. Warmbier’s death no less tragic to observe that every North Korean must live every day with the awareness that the slightest departure from Pyongyang’s repressive laws and orders could result in arbitrary detention without trial, life-long imprisonment in a ‘gulag’ prison camp, torture, or execution,” said Eun Kyoung Kwon, Secretary-General of the ICNK.

While ICNK does not yet know the exact cause of Mr. Warmbier’s death, there is no doubt that North Korea bears responsibility for arbitrarily arresting him, sending him to trial in a court where basic fair trial principles and procedures were ignored, and then incarcerating him in a way that made it possible to suffer grievous injury. The fact that North Korea held Warmbier for more than a year while he was in a coma, depriving him of access to advanced medical treatment, was also an outrageous violation of his rights. The treatment that Warmbier received at the hands of North Korean authorities is consistent with the kinds of abuse experienced by thousands of North Koreans held for so-called political crimes.

Mr. Warmbier’s alleged ‘crime’ was taking down a propaganda banner from a staff-only area of his hotel during his tour group’s visit to North Korea. For that perceived insult to the government and the ruling Workers Party of Korea, he was arrested, forced to confess, judged without receiving any legal assistance, and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in an arbitrary and unjust manner similar to what many North Koreans have experienced.

Over the past 20 years, North Korea has arrested 16 US citizens on various trumped up charges. To date, three of them remain in custody. Over the same time period, hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens have been held in the country’s vast system of labor camps for allegedly deviating from Pyongyang’s insistence on absolute loyalty to the ruling Kim family dynasty.

“The only comfort we can offer to the Warmbier family is that we will not cease our work on human rights in North Korea, until the perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice,” concluded Eun Kyoung Kwon.


For more information:

In Bangkok, Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, tel: +66-85-060-8406, email: RobertP@hrw.org, follow on Twitter @Reaproy

In London, Ben Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, tel: +44-7823-329664, email: ben@csw.org.uk

In Seoul, Eunkyoung Kwon, Secretary-General, ICNK, tel: +82-10-4508-8815, email: kekyoung@gmail.com


The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea is a joint effort of over 40 human rights groups worldwide that seeks to protect the human rights of North Koreans and to hold the Pyongyang government accountable for its abuses and violations of the human rights of the North Korean people.


Members and supporters of the Coalition include:

Advocates International Global Council

Asia Justice and Rights

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

Asian Human Rights & Humanity Association of Japan

Burma Partnership (Thailand)

Christian Lawyers Association for Paraguay

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

COMJAN (Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea)(Japan)

Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (USA)

Conectas (Brazil)

Council for Human Rights in North Korea (Canada)

David Hawk, Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and author of Hidden Gulag

Free North Korea Radio (ROK)

Freedom House (USA)

Han Voice (Canada)

HH Katacombs (ROK)

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium)

Inter-American Federation of Christian Lawyers

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Japanese Lawyers Association for Abduction and Other Human Rights Issues in North Korea

Jubilee Campaign (USA)

Justice for North Korea (ROK)

Ken Kato, Director, Human Rights in Asia (Japan)

Kontras (Indonesia)

Liberty in North Korea - LiNK (USA)

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (Japan)

Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (ROK)

NK Intellectual Solidarity (ROK)

NK Watch (ROK)

No Fence (Japan)

North Korea Freedom Coalition

Odhikar (Bangladesh)

Open North Korea (ROK)

People In Need (Czech Republic)

PSALT NK (Prayer Service Action Love Truth for North Korea)


Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (USA)

SARAM - Für Menschen in Nordkorea (Germany)

Students Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (ROK)

Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Recipient & Defence Forum Foundation (USA)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (USA)

The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (Japan)

Tomoharu Ebihara

Tomoyuki Kawazoe, Representative, Kanagawa Association for The Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea / Member, Reporters Without Borders

World Without Genocide (USA)

Young Defectors' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (ROK)

Yuki Akimoto, Burmainfo (Japan)

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