GENEVA • The United Nations investigator of human rights violations in North Korea has inserted himself into the mystery over the assassination of the North Korean leader's half-brother, calling for an independent inquiry and possible protection of "other persons from targeted killings".
The remarks by Mr Tomas Ojea Quintana, at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, essentially expanded the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam - the estranged older sibling of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - into a human rights issue.
Mr Ojea's remarks also intensified the international pressure on North Korea, which has been accused by South Korea and the United States of orchestrating the assassination a month ago at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
North Korea has denied responsibility, has described the assassination as a smear plot by Malaysia and North Korea's enemies and has not even acknowledged the identity of the victim.
Mr Kim Jong Nam, long alienated from his half-brother - who has led their hermetic nation for five years - was killed on Feb 13 by two women while awaiting a flight to Macau, according to the Malaysian authorities. The women rubbed his face with a toxic liquid, which Malaysia identified in an autopsy as VX, a banned chemical weapon .
Malaysian police have suggested that the women were recruited by North Korean agents.
Political analysts have proposed that Mr Kim Jong Un may have ordered the assassination of his half-brother over the fear that China might try to install him as North Korea's leader, should the current government collapse.
"I urge all parties concerned to cooperate in carrying out a transparent, independent and impartial investigation into this killing and to observe guidelines regarding witness protection," Mr Ojea told the Human Rights Council .
"Should the investigation confirm the involvement of state actors, Mr Kim would be a victim of an extrajudicial killing and measures would need to be taken to assign responsibilities and protect other persons from targeted killings."
As of Monday, no next of kin has come forward to claim the body, leading to speculation that the victim's wife and children live in fear of assassination as well.
North Korean officials have refused to meet Mr Ojea and boycotted his presentation. North Korea has long contended that the UN investigation of human rights abuses is groundless and part of a malicious plot instigated by the US and its allies.