TCHRD commemorates International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (2004)

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) commemorates the seventh United Nations international day in support of victims of torture on 26 June 2004. The UN proclaimed day is in support and solidarity with those who have suffered from torture and undergone physical pain and mental trauma. The day also calls for the end of torture throughout the world.

Torture is a regular feature in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) despite the fact that the PRC ratified the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in October 1988 and outlawed certain forms of torture in the revised Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, that came into effect in 1997. Systematic torture is still endemic in the Chinese administered prisons in Tibet. Torture is still being used for purposes of extracting confessions, to defeat Tibetan prisoners nationalist spirit, to intimidate prisoners and to cause humiliation and mental trauma that affect the prisoners for the rest of their lives.

Since 1987, TCHRD has documented 87 known deaths Tibetan prisoners of conscience as a direct result of torture in Tibet. All of these Tibetans died either in Chinese custody or after release from prisons in near death conditions due to torture. Torture techniques include electric shocks, pricking cigarettes on the face, hand or thumb cuffs, feet manacles, suspension from ceiling, exposure to extreme temperature, long period of solitary confinement, deprivation of food, water and sleep, forced labour and forced exercise drills.

In 2003, according to TCHRD records, three known Tibetan prisoners of conscience died due to torture. On 1 October 2003, Nyima Drakpa, 29, a monk sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment term, died in his home after being released on medical parole from the prison. Drakpa’s limbs were fractured due to torture while in prison. On 8 September 2003, Tenzin Phuntsok died. Phuntsok, 74, who was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was arrested on 21 September 2003 under alleged charges of carrying out political activities and was extensively tortured during interrogation sessions in Nyari Detention Centre. On 15 January 2004, Yeshi Gyatso, 65, died in his home after being released on medical parole from Lhasa Detention Centre. Yeshi was arrested in June 2003 on alleged charges of political activities and was subsequently sentenced to six years’ imprisonment term by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court.

China yet again blocked the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Theo Van Boven at the last minute by requesting for more time to coordinate his visit. The visit was to have taken place at the end of June 2004. It is clear that Beijing is not serious about its invitations to UN representatives. The Centre strongly supports and attaches great importance to the Special Rapporteur’s visit to China in order to ascertain true picture of the torture situation in China and Tibet.

In commemorating International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, TCHRD urges the UN Special Rapporteur push for his visit to China without further delay. The PRC must adhere to its domestic laws as well as its obligations with regard to UN human rights treaties particularly CAT. TCHRD also calls upon China to ratify the “Optional Protocol on UN Convention Against Torture”, “to allow independent international and national agencies to visit places where persons are deprived of liberty.”

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