ICT’s Submission to UN Committee Against Torture on China’s action in Tibet

The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) is scheduled to review China’s case on November 17 and 18, during its 56th session in Geneva. The Committee Against Torture is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its State parties.
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 and entered into force in 1987. The Convention was established “to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment throughout the world.”
Posted below is the submission that the International Campaign for Tibet has made to the United Nations regarding China’s treatment of Tibetans.

This submission can be found on the UN website.


International Campaign for Tibet
Civil society submission for the 5th cycle of the United Nations Committee against Torture, review of the People’s Republic of China
October 26, 2015

About the International Campaign for Tibet
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet. ICT does the following:

  • Monitors and reports on human rights, environmental and socio economic conditions in Tibet;
  • Advocates for Tibetans imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs;
  • Works with governments to develop policies and programs to help Tibetans;
  • Secures humanitarian and development assistance for Tibetans;
  • Works with Chinese institutions and individuals to build understanding and trust, and explores relationships between Tibetans and Chinese,
  • Mobilizes individuals and the international community to take action on behalf of Tibetans; and
  • Promotes self-determination for the Tibetan people through negotiations between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

Founded in 1988, ICT, a 501(c)(3) organization, maintains offices in Washington, DC, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Brussels with a field office in Dharamsala, India.

International Campaign for Tibet (United States of America)
1825 Jefferson Place NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 785-1515
Fax: (202) 785-4343
E-mail: [email protected]

International Campaign for Tibet Europe
Vijzelstraat 77
1017HG Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0)20 3308265
Fax: +31 (0)20 3308266
E-mail: [email protected]

International Campaign for Tibet Germany
Schönhauser Allee 163
10435 Berlin
Germany
Telefon: +49 (0)30 27879086
Fax: +49 (0)30 27879087
E-mail: [email protected]

International Campaign for Tibet Belgium
11, rue de la linière
1060 Brussels
Belgium
Phone: +32 (0)2 609 44 10
Fax: +32 (0)2 609 44 32
E-mail: [email protected]

  1. Summary
    1. There is a pattern of torture and mistreatment of Tibetans in Tibet. The International Campaign for Tibet has conducted an investigation into cases of recently released prisoners, including details of Tibetans who have died as a consequence. Our report concludes that although the PRC officially prohibits torture, it has become endemic in Tibet, a result both of a political emphasis on ensuring ‘stability’ and a culture of impunity among officials, paramilitary troops and security personnel.[1]
    2. Since the unrest in 2008 and crackdown in Tibet, the Chinese authorities have adopted a harsher approach to suppressing dissent and there has been a significant spike in the number of Tibetan political prisoners taken in Tibetan areas of the PRC. As of September 1, 2015, the Political Prisoner Database of the US Congressional Executive Commission on China contained records of 646 Tibetan political prisoners believed or presumed currently detained or imprisoned. Of those, 635 are records of Tibetans detained on or after March 10, 2008[2]. There is also evidence that since 2008 torture has become more widespread and directed at a broader sector of society.
    3. A younger generation of Tibetans is paying a high price with their lives for peaceful expression of views in a political climate in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity not directly sanctioned by the state can be characterized as ‘reactionary’ or ‘splittist’, and therefore ‘criminal’. But even despite the intensified dangers, Tibetans are continuing to take bold steps in asserting their national identity and defending their culture[3].
    4. Despite Chinese official assertions that China’s legislative, administrative, and judicial departments have adopted measures against torture, there are no indications of investigations into allegations of torture and mistreatment, let alone into cases of Tibetans who have been subjected to arbitrary detentions. Financial aid or compensation for injuries suffered during detention is extremely rare. Provided there is an – albeit limited – debate about cases of torture in the PRC outside of Tibet, the complete silence on such cases in Tibet contributes to the discriminatory policies and the lawlessness persisting in Tibet.
    5. During the 5th review cycle of the United Nations Committee against Torture, the People’s Republic of China has submitted a state report[4] and replied to a list of issues[5]. The International Campaign for Tibet believes neither the report nor the answers given to the list of issues are a satisfactory response to the urgent issues prevailing in Tibet with regard to torture and mistreatment. This submission focuses on three emblematic cases of Tibetans who had reportedly been subjected to torture: Goshul Lobsang, Jigme Gyatso and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. Despite the requirements of the Convention against Torture there is no information about investigations conducted into the relevant reports about torture of these persons.
  2. Article 12 of the Convention against Torture (prompt and impartial investigation)
    1. Goshul Lobsang, 43, died at home on March 19, 2014, following severe torture during his imprisonment. Goshul Lobsang, who was accused of being an organizer of a protest in 2008, had been beaten so severely that he could not even swallow his food. Images of him at his family home in the days before his death showed him looking emaciated and close to death at his family home in Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Amdo, today a part of northwestern China’s Gansu province.
    2. Goshul Lobsang was so ill that in the weeks before his death he could barely speak, but according to Tibetan sources, he still managed to utter some sentences about the well-being of the Tibetan people and the importance of freedom in Tibet. According to the same sources, among his final words were that he did not regret his death, because he had done what he could, and what he felt compelled to do.
    3. Goshul Lobsang was born in a small village in Machu, and spent some years in India studying at an exile Tibetan school before going back to Tibet to continue his nomadic life.
    4. According to Tibetans who knew him, in the 1990s, following his return from India, a number of leaflets with a political content were disseminated in Goshul Lobsang’s home area. Goshul Lobsang was detained under suspicion of involvement but was released a few weeks later. However, he remained under suspicion. As this report shows, Tibetans who are detained even for a short period by the Chinese authorities remain under close surveillance and they are subject to even more attention if they have travelled to India, as they are perceived to have come under the influence of the ‘Dalai clique’.
    5. Due to the restrictions he experienced, Goshul Lobsang finally left Machu and travelled to Lhasa, where he lived for a couple of years. He returned to his home town after 2000, and began to teach short English language courses to nomad students in order to further their opportunities for obtaining work. He was known among his friends to be a strong and determined individual who had on occasion raised a handmade Tibetan flag above his nomadic tent.
    6. In March, 2008, as unrest rippled across the Tibetan plateau, major protests were held in Machu county, including in Goshul Lobsang’s hometown area, on March 17-19. According to Tibetan sources, Goshul Lobsang was involved in the protests.
    7. In 2009, leaflets circulated in the area encouraging people not to celebrate Tibetan New Year; this was a development that occurred across Tibet. It was a heartfelt demonstration of solidarity with protestors who were suffering in prison or who had died, and an expression of mourning and grief. In Machu, the leaflets also encouraged local people to monitor the situation and to inform others about the reality of the oppression.
    8. On April 10, 2009, an incident occurred which led to Goshul Lobsang’s detention. Although details are sketchy of the circumstances, it appears that Goshul Lobsang and some other Tibetans challenged some of the armed forces about their presence and methods. When Goshul Lobsang and another Tibetan named as Dakpa were detained, local people managed to argue with the armed forces and to secure their release. Although the paramilitary forces then backed down slightly from the township, officials demanded the detention of ‘leading separatists’ including Goshul Lobsang, and demanded that they were handed in by local people.
    9. Goshul Lobsang and several others remained in hiding in the mountains for some time, until 2010, when he decided to return to normal life. He told one of his friends that if he were to be caught again, then he would bear the consequences.
    10. He was detained in June, 2010, and spent five months in the main detention center in Machu. According to a Tibetan source familiar with the case, he was subjected to intensive interrogation, brutality, and deprivation of both sleep and food. On November 26, 2010, Goshul Lobsang was sentenced to ten years in prison and transferred to Dingxi city in Gansu province. At his trial, he was said to be in such a critical condition that he had to be supported by two police officers.
    11. In November 2013, Goshul Lobsang’s health took a turn for the worst and the authorities decided to release him so that he would not die in custody. Despite making every effort to provide him with medical treatment, Goshul Lobsang was not even able to swallow food and did not recover.
    12. As he was dying, he told friends that while he knew it was ‘selfish’ to request it, his wish as a humble Tibetan nomad was for the Dalai Lama to bless him, and secondly he wanted to let the outside world know about the life of Tibetan political prisoners under Chinese oppression.
    13. He passed away in his bed at home surrounded by family members; Tibetan sources said that: “[At the end] he could not say anything, but simply folded his hands and died.” He leaves his mother, wife, and a teenage son and daughter.[6]
    14. Despite the detailed reports about torture and mistreatment, there has been no investigation launched until this date into the death of Goshul Lobsang. The International Campaign for Tibet urges the Committee against Torture to ask for reasons why there have not been investigations launched into the case of Goshul Lobsang.
    15. One of Tibet’s longest-serving political prisoners, Jigme Gyatso, was released from prison on March 31, 2013, after 17 years. Images received from Tibet show Tibetans waiting to receive him with khatags (white blessing scarves) to indicate respect and welcome him back to his home area in the Tibetan area of Amdo following his release. He was described as “very weak” upon arrival back to Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county in Gansu province’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where he had been a monk at Labrang Tashikyil monastery before his imprisonment in 1996. There are now serious concerns for his health, which is believed to be critical, and his psychological well-being.
    16. During his imprisonment, the former monk endured severe torture on several occasions. Originally sentenced to 15 years on November 23, 1996, Jigme Gyatso received the longest sentence of a group of five Tibetans who carried out various acts of peaceful resistance, including putting up a Tibetan national flag at Ganden monastery and raising the issue of Tibetan independence. The sentencing document issued by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court makes it clear that Jigme Gyatso was regarded by the Chinese authorities as the ring-leader. At the time of his arrest in March 1996, he was running a restaurant in Lhasa after leaving Ganden monastery.
    17. When he was first detained in March 1996, he was held at Gutsa detention center in Lhasa prior to his sentencing. A friend of Jigme Gyatso’s who is now in exile told ICT: “Jigme Gyatso was severely tortured at Gutsa. He was held in a dark room, separate to about 17 other Tibetans who were detained at the same time. He was kept in heavy shackles.”
    18. The same Tibetan source said that during his initial detention, Jigme Gyatso managed to smuggle out a letter to a comrade saying that he was likely to receive a long prison sentence, but that he had no regrets. He referred to the 10th Panchen Lama’s long prison sentence and others who had served terms in jail for freedom, including the South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. When prison officials discovered that he had sent this letter, Jigme Gyatso was beaten.
    19. In September 1997, security personnel from his home area came to interrogate him and tortured him so severely that he was reportedly unable to move for several days. He also endured torture together with all other political prisoners in Drapchi, following protests coinciding with the visit of a European Union delegation of Beijing-based ambassadors from three different European countries to the prison in May 1998. Jigme Gyatso reportedly sustained head wounds during the beatings in the aftermath of the protests on May 1 and 4 1998.
    20. He was severely kicked and beaten, including with electric batons, following an incident in March 2004 in which he shouted: “Long live the Dalai Lama,” for which he received a sentence extension. In 2006, he was hospitalized and was unable to walk properly due to an injury apparently incurred through torture. There were fears for his life in 2007 after he spoke about prison conditions on a rare visit by the then UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak to Chushur (Chinese: Qushui) prison in Lhasa where he was being held. Dr. Nowak had been the first official international observer to visit Chushur; he noted that in the prison there was a “palpable level of fear and self-censorship” and called for Jigme Gyatso’s release.
    21. Jigme Gyatso, now in his early 40s, was born in Tara village of Gangya township, Sangchu county, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province. He became a monk at the age of 21 at Labrang Tashikhyil Monastery in Gansu, before transferring to Ganden monastery in Lhasa. In 1985 he travelled into exile and studied at Drepung monastery in the south of India, before returning to Tibet.
    22. Despite the detailed reports about torture and mistreatment, there has been no investigation launched until this date about the alleged torture of Jigme Gyatso. Furthermore, Jigme Gyatso is in urgent need of medical and psychological support and it is unclear whether such support is granted. Jigme Gytso, given an investigation into the reports of torture confirms his allegations, he would be entitled for redress.
    23. An influential Tibetan lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, died on July 12 in his 13th year of a life sentence in prison. Armed security forces have been deployed as hundreds of Tibetans gathered today to call for his body to be returned to his monastery and community in the home area of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who was one of the most high-profile Tibetan political prisoners.
    24. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison without his family being allowed access except for six visits in 13 years, most recently in 2013, despite requests for his release on medical parole being made by a number of Western governments. His relatives said that in 2013, they became aware that he was suffering from a heart condition, frequent unconsciousness and uncontrollable shaking of parts of his body. It is not known whether Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who was 64, had received any medical treatment in prison.
    25. His body was cremated on July 16 amid high security at a remote detention facility where he died in his 13th year of a life sentence. His ashes are being taken back to his home county and monastery by his sisters and other relatives, according to his relatives in exile, where prayer ceremonies are expected to be held.
    26. When the authorities refused to allow the body to be returned to his family for traditional prayer ceremonies, it was negotiated for some members of his family to visit the body late last night. They were taken to a high-security detention facility in an isolated area several kilometers from Chengdu – not Chuandong Prison where they had thought he was being held. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s body, still in prison uniform, was in a bed in a cell. According to the same sources, his mouth and nails were stained black, and details of the circumstances of his death are still not clear.
    27. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s family had urged the authorities not to rush a cremation, citing a provision in Chinese law that allows families to appeal against hasty cremations of prisoners. In an appeal letter they have written to the authorities, translated in full into English below, one of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sisters said: “The body of the deceased cannot be taken home. We suspect the cause of death has some connection to the Prison. Please tell us clearly, which legal article states that the body of the deceased cannot be returned home.”[7]
    28. Despite the reports about torture and the sensitivity of his case, the authorities have not conducted an autopsy of his body and cremated the body only four days after Tenzin Delek’s death. Pleas by his family were ignored. As indicated in the reply to the list of issues, the Chinese government, however, considered his death as “clear”[8]. The International Campaign for Tibet urges the Committee against torture to ask for specific reasons why the plea of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s family has been ignored and on what grounds.
    29. The state party’s report states that “the procuratorial authorities strictly enforce the law, handling cases in which prison police corporally punish or abuse detained persons or abuse their authority in such a way as to cause injury or death to detained persons, upholding standard detention procedures, and ensuring that the lawful rights and interests of the detained are not infringed upon. From 2008 to the end of 2011, the procuratorial authorities handled 158 cases of detainee abuse, involving 191 persons.”[9]
    30. The International Campaign for Tibet urges the Committee against Torture to inquire for a list of investigations into allegations of torture in the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, as well as in other Tibetan areas. Moreover, the Chinese authorities must present a breakdown of cases of investigations according to provincial or regional boundaries.
    31. The state party report states that “under the Organic Law of the People’s Procuratorates of the People’s Republic of China, the internal anti-malfeasance and rights infringement departments of Chinese procuratorial organs are responsible for investigating and handling crimes of abuse of official privilege by personnel of State organs and the use of official authority to extract confessions through torture or obtain evidence through violence and other crimes of infringement of the personal and democratic rights of citizens. There are 3,400 such internal anti-malfeasance and rights infringement departments in procuratorial organs at all levels throughout the country, staffed by some 16,000 personnel, ensuring that any act of torture will be promptly and fairly investigated.”[10]
    32. The International Campaign for Tibet urges the Committee against torture to inquire the number of staffers and personnel that are responsible for investigating and handling crimes of tortures and mistreatment in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” and other Tibetan areas.
    33. Given the apparent ineffectiveness of current mechanisms for preventing torture in Tibet, we urge the Committee to restate its recommendation with regard to establishing “an effective and independent oversight mechanism to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigation into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment”.[11]
    34. Moreover, the Committee should restate its recommendation, urging the People’s Republic of China to “take effective measures to keep under systematic review all places of detention, including existing and available health services. Furthermore, the State party should take prompt measures to ensure that all instances of deaths in custody are independently investigated and that those responsible for such deaths resulting from torture, ill-treatment or wilful negligence are prosecuted. The Committee would appreciate a report on the outcome of such investigations, where completed, and about what penalties and remedies were provided.”[12]
  3. Article 6 (persecution of perpetrators); Article 10 (education and training); Article 13 (appeal); Article 14 (redress for torture victims)
    1. The lack of investigations conducted into allegations and reports about torture of Tibetan prisoners casts serious doubts about the People’s Republic of China commitment to uphold the principles and stipulations of the Convention against Torture, despite the number of regulations, laws or legal opinions that have been passed over the past years and which have been documented in the state party’s report.
    2. Failure to investigate such reports inhibits further legal processes, such as seeking redress, or bringing perpetrators to justice. Furthermore, it questions the commitment of the Chinese government in terms of training and education of it security personnel. Instead, there is a culture of impunity in Tibet that apparently consciously ignores national and international law.
    3. The International Campaign for Tibet urges the Committee against Torture to ask for a regional or provincial breakdown of trainings, appeals, redress and persecution of perpetrators.
  4. Conclusion
    1. The International Campaign for Tibet is deeply concerned about the spike in political imprisonment and the widespread use of torture on Tibetans, in contravention of both Chinese and international law. Torture represents a serious violation of fundamental human rights, and its use must be prohibited, publicly condemned, with its victims compensated and those responsible brought to justice, in accordance with the Convention Against Torture which the People’s Republic of China is state party of.
    2. The use of torture has not only an immediate impact on its victims, but also on the entire Tibetan society. It deepens Tibetan resentment against state power and deepens the sense of oppression by the Chinese authorities. It appears to have become common knowledge among Tibetans that they will be subjected to torture when taken into custody, particularly after being involved in political protest. In August 2014, a young Tibetan committed suicide while under detention; according to sources, he killed himself in protest against the torture by the Chinese authorities.
    3. For many Tibetans, it appears to be of utmost importance that accounts of torture and mistreatment are known outside Tibet. Before he died following torture and malnourishment in prison, 43-year old Goshul Lobsang expressed his wish for a blessing from the Dalai Lama, and also said that he wanted to let the outside world know about the lives of Tibetan political prisoners under Chinese oppression. He passed away in March 2014; Tibetan sources said that: “[At the end] he could not say anything, but simply folded his hands and died.”

END

Footnotes
[1] International Campaign for Tibet, February 26, 2015: “Torture and impunity: 29 cases of Tibetan political prisoners” http://www.savetibet.org/newsroom/torture-and-impunity-29-cases-of-tibetan-political-prisoners/;

[2] US Congressional Executive Commission on China, Annual Report, 2015; http://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/2015%20Annual%20Report.pdf;

[3] International Campaign for Tibet, June 14, 2015, “The teeth of the storm”: lack of freedom of expression and cultural resilience in Tibet – http://www.savetibet.org/the-teeth-of-the-storm-lack-of-freedom-of-expression-and-cultural-resilience-in-tibet/;

[4] Committee Against Torture, CAT/C/CHN/5;

[5] Committee Against Torture, Advanced unedited version; October 1, 2015;

[6] International Campaign for Tibet, “29 Cases of Tibetan Political Prisoners”, ibid.;

[7] International Campaign for Tibet, July 16, 2015: “Body of revered Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche cremated in remote high-security prison facility”; http://www.savetibet.org/body-of-revered-tibetan-lama-tenzin-delek-rinpoche-cremated-in-remote-high-security-prison-facility/;

[8] See advanced unedited version of reply to the list of issues; para 27, page 36, (“丹增德勒,俗名阿安扎西,因犯有爆炸罪、煽动分裂国家罪被判处死缓,后减为无期徒刑,因心源性猝死经医院抢救无效,于今年7月12日死亡。阿安扎西服刑期间,其合法权利依法得到保障。阿安扎西死因明确,对其病情的救治及时、得当”);

[9] CAT/C/CHN/5, para. 68-74;

[10] CAT/C/CHN/5, para 71;

[11] Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations, December 2008, CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, para. 20;

[12] Ibid., para. 12;

[13] International Campaign for Tibet, August 19, 2014: “Tibetans with wounds after shooting denied medical treatment: deployment of military leads to mass detentions in village in Kham”.

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