Thursday 20 January 2011

Action alert – Torture fears for Tibetan prisoner

JANUARY 13, 2011

Jigme Gyatso, a Tibetan prisoner of conscience and former monk, is suspected to be seriously ill as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody in Qushui prison in the outskirts of Lhasa (in Chinese, Lasa) in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. 
Jigme Gyatso was detained in 1996 for his activities in support of Tibetan independence, including setting up a group called the “Association of Tibetan Freedom Movement” and distributing pro-independence leaflets. He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in November 1996 as a “counter-revolutionary ringleader”. He has been isolated from other prisoners and was denied visitors for a few months before being allowed one at the end of 2010.
He has been tortured or otherwise ill-treated on several occasions. For the first six months of his detention he was kept in an “interrogation cell” and tortured. In 1997, he was beaten so badly that he could barely walk afterwards. In May 1998, he was among a group of prisoners in Drapchi prison who began shouting pro-Dalai Lama slogans, prompting a violent response from prison staff, resulting in nine dead. Jigme Gyatso was beaten. The protest coincided with a European Union delegation visit to the prison. Jigme Gyatso was also hospitalized in 2009.
In November 2005 Jigme Gyatso met with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, during the Rapporteur’s mission to China. Following their meeting, he was reportedly held in isolation and then hospitalized for several weeks.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has appealed to the Chinese authorities for Jigme Gyatso’s release. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that his detention was arbitrary and violated his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
In May 2004, Jigme Gyatso was beaten, including with electric batons, for having shouted pro-Dalai Lama slogans and given an additional three-year sentence for “inciting separatism”. He is due to be released in March 2014.
Please write immediately in English, French, Chinese or your own language.
* Urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Jigme Gyatso,who has been detained solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
* Urge the authorities to order a full and impartial investigation into allegations that Jigme Gyatso has been tortured, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice, and respectfully demand a guarantee that he will not be tortured or otherwise ill-treated while he remains in custody.
* Urge the authorities to guarantee that he has access to any medical care he may require, legal representation of his choosing and family.
Direct your messages to:
 Qushui Prison Governor:
 Qushui prison
 Qushui county
 Lasashi, Xizang Zizhiqu
 Salutation: Dear Prison Governor
 Chief Procurator of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Procuratorate:
 Zhang Peizhong Jianchazhang
 Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Jianchayuan
 Lasashi, Xizang Zizhiqu
 People's Republic of China
 Salutation: Dear Procurator
 And copies to:
 His Excellency Zhang Junsai
 Ambassador for the People's Republic of China
 515 St. Patrick Street
 Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5H3
 Fax:   (613) 789-1911
 Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Government:
 Padma CHOLING Zhuren
 Xizang Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
 1 Kang'angdonglu
 Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu
 People's Republic of China
 Fax:   011 86 891 633 5168
 Salutation: Dear Chairman
Additional information
Torture and other ill-treatment remain endemic in places of detention in China, even though China ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 1988. Amnesty International receives regular reports of deaths in custody, many of them caused by torture, in a variety of state institutions, including prisons, Re-education Through Labour facilities and police detention centres.
The broad discretion given to the police by the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) to detain suspects for long periods before trial increases opportunities for torture and other ill-treatment. During this time detainees' access to their families and legal representatives may be limited.
Under the CPL, the police should tell detainees' families that they have been detained or arrested, and where they are held, within 24 hours, except where it "would hinder the investigation" (Articles 64 and 71). However, in practice communication with the family is frequently denied until detainees are brought to trial or sentenced. Provisions on access to legal counsel also fall short of international standards.
The authorities have passed numerous regulations intended to strengthen the formal prohibition of torture stipulated in China’s Criminal Law. However, the categories of prohibited behaviour are limited, and do not comply fully with definitions of torture under international law, including, for instance, behaviour causing mental torture.
New regulations effective from 1 July 2010 and jointly issued by the SPC, Supreme People's Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Justice, aim to strengthen prohibitions against the use of illegal evidence in criminal cases, including coerced confessions and other evidence obtained through torture and other ill-treatment, particularly in death penalty cases. However, China’s Criminal Procedure Law has still not been amended to explicitly prohibit the use of confessions obtained through torture or other ill-treatment as evidence before the courts.

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