Otto Warmbier’s Family Suing North Korea For Violation Of International Law

Fred and Cindy Warmbier are seeking a monetary award for the ‘exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment’ of their son Otto.

Cindy and Fred Warmbier, the parents of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, are suing North Korea, charging that they “brutally tortured and murdered” him. The 22-page complaint was filed in federal court. Their son died on June 19, 2017, a week after being released from North Korea and returning home where he was declared brain dead.

In December 2015, Otto Warmbier traveled to North Korea with a China-based tour group called Young Pioneer Tours that caters to people from the West. He saw it, his parents say, as “an opportunity to understand how people lived in one of the only closed societies in the world.” After five days in North Korea, the group prepared to leave, but Otto was arrested and charged with stealing government propaganda because he had stolen a poster from his hotel. His trial took place in March 2016. It lasted an hour and resulted in a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. Seventeen months later, Otto was returned to Cincinnati. His parents say he “had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently and howling” according to Fox News. They described him as deaf, blind, in a deep coma, and with a wound to one of his feet. The Warmbiers describe Otto’s teeth, saying they “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.” North Korea told Fred and Cindy Warmbier that their son had contracted botulism.

Fred Warmbier was quoted by the Washington Post and said his son was “taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un. Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life. This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family.”

The suit also charges that North Korea forced their son to make a false statement that he was a spy working for the CIA. Fred and Cindy Warmbier are asking the court to determine a monetary award for punitive damages related to their son’s torture and death and its emotional impact on his family. Any awarded money would likely come from a fund created by Congress in 2015 to compensate victims of state-sponsored terrorism. That fund is administered by the Justice Department.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the following in a statement.

“Although this is a private legal action to which the United States government is not a party, Americans remain committed to honoring Otto’s memory, and we will not forget the suffering of his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier.”

Three Americans are still being held captive by North Korea. President Trump states that he is working on their release. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who was just confirmed as Secretary of State, met with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend, reportedly speaking to him about releasing the detainees during his visit.

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