9) NO BASIS FOR U.S.
ACCUSATIONS IN WARMBIER CASE
By Kimball Cariou
The tragic death
of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student from
The U.S. student had been on a tourist trip to the DPRK when he was charged and sentenced for committing an "anti-DPRK hostile act" in January 2016. A few months later, according to Korean authorities, Warmbier became ill through botulism, and fell into a coma, or more accurately "a state of unresponsive wakefulness". In such a state, a person is unable to respond to commands, move or respond to stimulus, although that person can yawn, sleep on cycle and breathe without mechanical assistance. Clinical studies suggest some people can be roused from a state of unresponsive wakefulness, but everything depends on the level of damage to the brain.
In June 2017, Warmbier was released on sick bail and returned on a U.S. plane, to Cleveland, Ohio. He was treated at the
Four months later, on October 10, 2017, several American doctors submitted a “medical observation” to a federal district court in Washington D.C., claiming that he had died of torture, and alleging that "his teeth were dislocated and his gum bone damaged by physical force from outside".
Nikki Haley, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (soon to step down from that post) has jumped on the case, calling North Korea an "evil place" where Otto Warmbier was tortured to death.
Speaking to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 27, 2018, Kim Song-hui, the director of the
Kim Song-hui points to a USA Today article, printed on June 21, 2017, in the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which doctors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) state that they found no trace of physical abuses like bone fracture or internal organ injury.
The article quotes Dr. Daniel Kanter, a UC Health neuroscientist, stating that Otto Warmbier had received good medical care in the DPRK, surviving while unable to communicate or move for 14 months, and arriving home in a “well-nourished” condition.
Kanter was able to review contemporaneous medical records from Warmbier's period of imprisonment, and conducted MRI tests. He said Warmbier’s injury most likely occurred because his heart stopped, cutting off oxygen to the brain. Kanter said that botulism might have damaged his heart and lungs, but any trace of botulism would not have lived in his body after 14 months.
Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the coroner of
Her postmortem examination did not indicate the young man’s teeth had been disfigured. “The teeth are natural and in good repair,” the report said, and his nose and ears show “no remarkable alteration.”
Despite these findings, a vicious anti-DPRK campaign began in the United States. But there are more questions than certainties about this case. Despite the torture accusations by
Are the accusations based on political grounds rather than medical evidence? It's interesting to recall that the initial attacks against the DPRK around this case, during the summer and fall of 2017, coincided with President Trump's threats to completely destroy the country. It was only several months later that relations thawed, leading to the Singapore Summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un last June.
Since the Summit, the anti-DPRK campaign has not stopped, with a constant stream of accusations from political leaders and some media outlets seeking to rouse public anger. Warmbier's family continues to demand that the DPRK be treated as a "terrorist state," and has launched a wrongful death suit against the DPRK.
But in the absence of any factual evidence to back up the accusations of torture, one can only conclude that this case is political in nature. Certainly the best way to overcome the longstanding tensions in the region is to continue the process of dialogue and de-escalation of military confrontations, leading towards the eventual reunification of the
(The above article is
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