Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) expresses its shock and dismay over the harsh sentences passed on three Tibetans by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court.
Penkyi,sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve
According to official Chinese mouthpiece, Xinhua, dated 21 April 2009, the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court sentenced one man to death with a two-year reprieve and two others to long jail terms for setting fire that killed six people in Lhasa riot last year. Penkyi, of Sakya County, Shigatse Prefecture(Ch: Xigaze) “Tibet Autonomous Region” (‘TAR’) was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, whereas Penkyi, 23, from Nyemo County (Ch: Nimo Xian), Lhasa Municipality, “TAR” was sentenced to life imprisonment and Chime, 20, from Namling County (Ch: Nanmulin xian), Shigatse Prefecture, “TAR” was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The three were sentenced by the Chinese court on alleged charges of arson, setting fire to clothing stores last year during the Lhasa unrest.
The Centre is seriously concerned about the fairness of the legal procedures according to international standards for fair trial and the treatment of the detainees who were held for more than a year in custody prior to their court sentencing. The secretive nature of the court trial and sentencing without providing any detail information on defendants, their argument, date of court trial and sentencing are particularly worrisome. Such secretive nature of the court trial procedure raises many questions on fairness, transparency, effectiveness and independence of judiciary which is cornerstone for ensuring justice. The Centre reaffirms that the right to a fair trial is a basic human rights and it is one of the universally applicable principles recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and still the cornerstone of the international human rights system.
While the official mouthpiece, Xinhua, report states that trials had been open and strictly abided by the Criminal Procedural Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and provided with Tibetan interpreters for the defendants during the trial, however, the rights of defendants to be represented by the lawyer of their choice was ignored by the judicial authorities in other earlier cases, due to politicized nature of the process. Following March 2008 protests, several lawyers from the Mainland China were threatened to revoke their license if they represent detainees.
Such political patronage in the judicial trials is evident from the past experiences. After a series of protests in Tibet last year, Pema Thinley, Executive Vice Governor of “TAR,” who was also a Deputy Secretary, Standing Committee of the ‘TAR’ Communist Party’s Political and Legal Affairs, call on judiciary bodies to act fast and strike hard on ‘Dalai clique’ during a meeting on 2 April 2008 in Lhasa. He further said that stringent legal action should be taken in tune with the Party policy so that the final verdict would gain political, legal and social dividends referring to achieving social and political stability in the region.
In February this year, Xinhua quoted Nyima Tsering, Vice Chairman of the “TAR” People’s Congress Standing Committee as saying that Chinese courts had handed down sentences ranging from three years to life in prison to a total of 76 people over the riots. However, according to the Centre’s documentation around 235 Tibetans from “TAR” and Tibetan areas outside “TAR” have so far been sentenced to varying prison terms by court at different levels for their participation in the spring Tibet protest last year.
TCHRD considers the sentencing of Penkyi with suspended death penalty, Penkyi to life and Chime to 10 years jail term as highly arbitrary and summary in nature, which failed to meet the minimal international judicial standards, required for a fair trial. The Centre would like to seek the intervention of the international community and related UN mandates holders to secure justice for three Tibetan defendants. The Centre believes such court sentences are used as intimidation tactic by the authorities to Tibetans who dare show their dissent with the state.