TCHRD commemorates International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (2009)

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) commemorates the 12th anniversary of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to recognise the pain and suffering that victims and survivors of torture throughout the world has gone through. The day reminds us that torture is a crime and provides us with an opportunity to stand united and voice our opinion against torture, a cruel violation of human rights. International law states that torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment can never be justified under any circumstances.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) entered into force on 26 June 1987. It was an important step in the much-needed process of globalising human rights and acknowledging that torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are absolutely and universally illegal and should not be condoned. There can be zero tolerance for torture. In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this historic date and designated 26 June each year as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The Convention obliges States to make torture a crime and to prosecute and punish those guilty of it. It notes explicitly that neither higher orders nor exceptional circumstances can justify torture. 

In Chinese occupied Tibet, it has a long history of gross human rights violations abetted by a political culture of impunity towards past human rights violations. The torture and ill treatment are endemic and regular feature in the Chinese administered wide network of prisons and detention centers across the Tibetan plateau. The Centre is highly concerned about the well-being and safety of the prisoners of conscience and detainees involved in recent spate of protests.

Torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment appears to have become a central element of state agents’ treatment of Tibetans perceived as being in opposition to the Communist regime and those attempting to exercise their rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Tibetans who voiced their support for the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama or have divergent views to those of the Communist regime have been primary targets of torture, ill-treatment or other forms of human rights violations. Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) are repeatedly using torture as a means of intimidating, investigating and extracting information or confessions from real or perceived offenders and detainees. Since last March protest, TCHRD has recorded numerous cases of Tibetans having died directly as a result of torture and there were many Tibetans have died shortly after being released from Chinese custody, in which they were subjected to inhumane torture.

In recent time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the U.N. panel’s report on the widespread use of torture by Chinese police, calling the report as “untrue and slanderous” in November 2008 and accusing the committee members as “prejudiced” against China.

On contrary, in one of the most shocking video footage ever to smuggled out of Tibet in recent time was that of Chinese security officials savagely beating and manhandling handcuffed and tied Tibetan detainees in Lhasa in the aftermath of the March 14 protest in Lhasa, a wanton violation of international standard minimum rules for the treatment of captives. In the second footage, a young Tibetan, Tendar, a staff in the China Mobile company who was brutally beaten and later subjected to inhuman treatment at the hands of Chinese authorities. The crime of Tendar, he witnessed an elderly monk being beaten by Chinese security personnel during Lhasa protest and reportedly told the security forces to have mercy on elderly monk. He did so at a time that armed police were opening fire on the protesters. Tendar was shot and fell to the ground. Still conscious, he was taken away by police to the Lhasa General Hospital that is run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). While he was at the hospital, he was fired at, burned with cigarettes butts, pierced with a nail in his right foot and beaten with iron rods. He was tortured repeatedly and his condition deteriorated rapidly. The wounds and the bruise marks visible on his body is a testimony of the brutality he was subjected to by the Chinese authorities. The rotten wounds and bruise marks on his body when he was shifted to the “TAR” People’s Hospital proves that he was even denied basic medical care at the hospital. He died on 19 June 2009 due to his injuries. A nail was found in his right foot while his corpse was offered to the vultures during the traditional sky burial.

As partly illustrated by abovementioned case, the use of electric prod, pricking cigarettes on the body, beating, hand or thumb cuffs, feet manacles, aerial suspension, exposure to extreme temperature, long period of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, violent beating, forced labour and forced exercise drills are few of the commonly used techniques employed by the Chinese authorities from the time of arrest to the detention centre. As terrible as the physical wounds are, the psychological and emotional scars are usually the most devastating and the most difficult to repair. A subtle form of mental torture is being used on prisoners in Tibet. In the past, a more cases of suicides due to excessive mental humiliation and psychological trauma had surfaced.

In view of the current human rights situation in Tibet, TCHRD urges the government of the PRC to implement the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to eradicate torture and “to ensure torture survivors’ right to full reparation with special attention to medical and psychological needs”.

The PRC should eradicate the widespread culture of impunity and perpetrators of gross human rights abuses should be brought to justice.

On this specific day dedicated to the victims of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, TCHRD recall that the victims concerned must be ensured the right to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation. In the present repressive situation, however, which is characterized by a climate of persisting impunity, victims of such practices fail to obtain justice. Yet justice is instrumental for the victims’ dignity to be restored.

For purposes of remedying this situation of injustice, the Centre calls on the Government of the PRC to take the necessary steps to sign without delay, and thereafter effectively implement, the Optional Protocol ot the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Centre expresses its support for the universal prohibition against torture and ill-treatment and respect for the human rights.

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