Wednesday, November 12, 2008

China Refuses to Answer Questions from UN Panel on Torture Allegations

According to an Associated Press report ( China refused Monday to answer questions from a United Nations human rights panel about the alleged torture and disappearance of dissidents, or provide official figures on the mistreatment of detainees in its prisons.Campaigners have long criticized the country for failing to live up to a 1984 UN anti-torture accord, citing the secrecy of its courts and the persecution of lawyers who highlight abuses.
Li Baodong, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said his government had "zero tolerance for torture" and was making progress in stamping out abuse.
"The concept of prohibition of torture is gaining widespread recognition among the judiciary," he told a public meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture.
But Li and 31 other members of China's delegation rejected requests for detailed information on issues such as forced disappearances and prisoner abuse.
Three years ago, the UN's torture investigator said inmates told him they were forced to lie still for weeks, faced beatings with electric batons or sticks, or faced other ill-treatment. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also have documented cases where they say torture was committed by state officials.
Felice Gaer, one of the UN panel's 10 members, said she had hoped to receive more specific answers from China during the two-day hearing, which began Friday.
"The problem is not the absence of statistics but the inability to make these statistics public," she said.
Gaer also cited individual cases that China had been asked to explain, including the disappearance and prosecution of religious figures, human rights campaigners and lawyers.
Chinese officials addressed only one case, that of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who in 1995 was chosen by the Dalai Lama to become the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest ranking figure.
Nyima, who was six years old at the time, disappeared with his family soon after and has not been heard from since. Human rights groups say Nyima, now 19, is being held under house arrest by the Chinese authorities.
"Choekyi Nyima and his family are leading a normal life and they don't want to be disturbed," Shen Yang, an official with China's Ethnic Affairs Commission, told the committee.
The UN committee will issue a list of findings and recommendations on China later this month.

Comment: China Ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1998. Here is part of the text China agreed to abide by at that time: Article 20
1. If the Committee receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party, the Committee shall invite that State Party to co-operate in the examination of the information and to this end to submit observations with regard to the information concerned.
2. Taking into account any observations which may have been submitted by the State Party concerned, as well as any other relevant information available to it, the Committee may, if it decides that this is warranted, designate one or more of its members to make a confidential inquiry and to report to the Committee urgently.
3. If an inquiry is made in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Committee shall seek the co-operation of the State Party concerned. In agreement with that State Party, such an inquiry may include a visit to its territory.
4. After examining the findings of its member or members submitted in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Commission shall transmit these findings to the State Party concerned together with any comments or suggestions which seem appropriate in view of the situation.
5. All the proceedings of the Committee referred to in paragraphs I to 4 of this article shall be con fidential , and at all stages of the proceedings the co-operation of the State Party shall be sought. After such proceedings have been completed with regard to an inquiry made in accordance with paragraph 2, the Committee may, after consultations with the State Party concerned, decide to include a summary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report made in accordance with article 24.

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