09/08/2020

TCHRD calls for release of Jigme Gyatso on medical grounds

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Jigme Gyatso, a 48-year-old Tibetan political prisoner from Amdo Kersul, who is serving 17 years’ prison sentence is learnt to be seriously ill following years of torture and ill-treatment in the prison since 1996, according to information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) from reliable sources.

The Centre expresses its deepest concern at the continued imprisonment of seriously ill Jigme Gyatso and urges the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to order his immediate release on compassionate health grounds. Jigme Gyatso is currently serving his sentence in Chushul Prison (Ch: Quhui), on the outskirt of Lhasa city.

Background Information:

Jigme Gyatso was born in 1961 at Kersul district in Amdo. Jigme traveled to India in 1985 to receive a religious initiation. He stayed in Drepung Gomang Monastery in south India for a year and then returned to Tibet where he joined Gaden Monastery. In 1991 he became involved in pro-independence activities. He distributed independence leaflets and pasted posters on the walls around Gaden Monastery and nearby Lhasa City. Between 1988 and 1989, Gyatso was the leader of a secret youth organization called the “Association of Tibetan Freedom Movement.” In 1992, he organized one of the demonstrations that took place in Lhasa. Many of the demonstrators were arrested and detained by the PSB and the officials of the anti-riot department. He was not arrested at that time although officials of Public Security Bureau (PSB) suspected he was involved and kept him under strict surveillance. Gyatso was finally arrested on 30 March 1996 in Lhasa in front of the Tsuklakhang Temple. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and 5 years deprivation of political rights on 25 November 1996 by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court for crime of ‘endangering national security’ in connection with establishing an illegal organization and ‘incitement’. He was detained in Gutsa PSB Detention Centre for one year and a month, where he was severely tortured and beaten and he described the treatment at Gutsa ‘the worst’ to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak, during the latter’s 12-day visit to China, Xinjiang and Tibet in November-December 2005.

Jigme was shifted to Drapchi Prison in April 1997 where he served most of his prison terms before his transfer to and incarceration in Chushul Prison in April 2005. He still continues to serve his sentence in Chushul Prison despite being seriously ill.

Jigme took part in the May 1998 protests in Drapchi Prison, prior to the visit of a troika of European Union Ambassadors. These protests were brutally suppressed and resulted in the death of eight prisoners and sentence extensions of at least 27 prisoners.

In one incident in March 2004, Jigme shouted slogan, “long live the Dalai Lama,” for which he was kicked and beaten, including the use of electric batons on his back and chest. For that act his sentence was extended for an additional two years.

Jigme continued to serve a sentence despite November 2000 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention statement that he was merely “exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”

There were even reports of Jigme Gyatso having subjected to beatings and solitary confinement by the Chinese security forces following a meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak in Chushul Prison. After the visit, in his report Dr. Nowak recommended for the release of eight individuals including three Tibetan political prisoners. “Since he has been convicted of a political crime, possibly on the basis of information extracted by torture, the Special Rapporteur appeals to the government that he be released,” Nowak writes in each of the eight cases. The Chinese government heeded none of his recommendations on the prisoners’ release.

The Centre calls for immediate intervention by governments, the UN mandate holders and international communities to secure parole for Jigme Gyatso so that he could receive timely and effective medical treatment.