UN submission details torture in Tibet

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

China due for review of torture record this year

A submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture has provided in depth and shocking testimony from torture survivors in Tibet and documents incidents of torture and torture-related deaths since 2008 (1). China faces a review of its compliance with the International Convention Against Torture this year and the submission by Free Tibet, Tibet Watch and Tibetan political prisoner organisation Gu-Chu-Sum will form part of the initial evidence considered by the committee.

China was last reviewed by the Committee Against Torture in 2008 and the Torture in Tibet report details the repression, state violence and torture that followed the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in March and April 2008 and continues into the present. Forms of torture documented include the handcuffing of one prisoner to a burning stove, beatings with electric batons and electric shocks to the mouth, immersion in cold water and suspending prisoners in the air from their handcuffs. One torture survivor, Golog Jigme, who was tortured while shackled to an iron chair, told Tibet Watch:

“Whenever I remember that chair I feel scared, even to this day. I felt like it would be better to die than survive being tortured on that chair. I was kept on the chair days and nights. At one point, my feet got swollen and, to my horror, all my toenails fell off.

“Besides the iron chair, the pain of thirst was the second worst torture. Due to the blood loss from my body, I felt like I was dying from thirst, but was only given a very small amount of water. Over time, I got used to hunger and sleep deprivation, but never to being thirsty.”

He reported that he endured the torture by thinking about

“the thousands and thousands of our forefathers who were killed for Tibet. I feel immense pride in their memory and I was determined to carry forward their legacy and be the true next generation. I also felt stronger when [my torturers] reviled His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

The report also documents deaths in custody as a result of torture and the deaths of other prisoners days after release as a result of torture while incarcerated. The submission reports current cases of prisoners arbitrarily detained who are at risk of torture and documents 11 incidents since 2008 in which Tibetans have been killed when security forces fired upon protests.

In its 2008 report, the committee recorded “great concern” about reported torture and state violence in Tibet, calling on China to impartially investigate reports of torture and ill-treatment and to ensure perpetrators were prosecuted (3). In 2013 China banned the use of evidence obtained by torture from its courts (4). However, courts remain subservient to the Chinese Communist Party and prisoners are still arbitrarily detained, held incommunicado and denied legal representation. As the submission makes clear, without effective mechanisms to enforce the theoretical ban, security forces continue to use torture with impunity.

Free Tibet and Tibet Watch director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Today, the 10th of March, is Tibetan Uprising Day, marking 56 years since China crushed Tibetans’ attempt to throw off its rule. In 2015, it continues to use extreme violence and intimidation for the same purposes. China’s review in the Committee Against Torture is a desperately needed opportunity to shine a light on its brutality. Since the last review China’s government has, ostensibly, banned torture but the evidence on the ground tells a very different story. It’s vital that it is now held to account.”

Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar, Vice President Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet said:

“In recent years, China has drawn its own Iron Curtain around Tibet, making it increasingly difficult and dangerous for former political prisoners and victims of torture to escape and tell their stories. Despite this, the voices and stories that come from Tibet make very clear that China’s control still depends on brutalising anyone who it sees as any sort of threat. We’re pleased to be able to provide the UN with first-hand evidence of that brutality but what we can offer only scratches the surface. Our thoughts are with those still imprisoned in Tibet and bravely enduring the mental and physical torture that still goes on.”

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The full report can be viewed online at http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/torture_in_tibet_-_february_2015.pdf

For further information, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media manager Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors

(1) Tibet Watch, supported by Free Tibet and Gu-Chu-Sum Torture in Tibet, 2015, available at http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/torture_in_tibet_-_february_2015.pdf Further submissions will be made to the Committee later in the review process (see below).
(2) The Committee Against Torture reviews states’ compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment approximately every five years. The committee receives initial evidence from sources including international NGOs and civil society organisations and adopts a List of Issues submitted to the state being reviewed for reply. After hearing further evidence from external parties and the state, it then issues “Concluding observations” which identify particular issues of concern. China’s full review will take place in the 54th session of the committee in November 2015.
(3) Concluding observations of the Committee Against Torture, December 2008 http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2fC%2fCHN%2fCO%2f4&Lang=en
(4) BBC News 21 November 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-25029934

Free Tibet campaigns for an end to China's occupation of Tibet and for international recognition of Tibetans' right to freedom. We mobilise active support for the Tibetan cause, champion human rights and challenge those whose actions help sustain the occupation. www.freetibet.org

Tibet Watch works to promote the human rights of the Tibetan people through monitoring, research and advocacy. It is a UK registered charity with an office in London and a field office in Dharamsala, India. www.tibetwatch.org

Established in 1991, the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet's primary aim is to provide food, shelter, financial help, medical attention, education, job and psychological support to former Tibetan prisoners of conscience. Gu-Chu-Sum are the Tibetan numbers 9,10,3 standing for September, October 1987 and March 1988-months which saw three massive pro-independence rallies crushed in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, Many of those who took part were imprisoned, beaten and sentenced to hard labor. Currently, Gu-Chu-Sum has more than 500 members. http://gu-chu-sum.org/en/