October 4, 2004

Tibet: Statement by Working Group on arbitrary Detention following Visit to China

The Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Leïla Zerrougui, issued the following statement today...
The Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Leïla Zerrougui, issued the following statement today:

"The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited the People's Republic of China from 18 to 30 September 2004 at the invitation of the Government. The Working Group visited, in addition to Beijing, the cities of Chengdu (capital of Sichuan Province) and Lhasa (capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region). The Working Group's delegation was headed by Leïla Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group, and was composed of Tamás Bán, the Working Group's Vice Chairperson, as well as the Working Group's Secretary, another member of the United Nations Secretariat and two United Nations interpreters.

"It was agreed that the mission would follow up on previous missions of the Working Group (6 to 16 October 1997, report contained in document E/CN.4/1998/44/Add.2; and 14 to 21 July 1996, report in document E/CN.4/1997/4). Therefore, in contrast to other missions conducted by the Working Group in countries which it visits for the first time, this visit focused on developments since the 1997 visit. Bearing also in mind the significant dimension of the country and the limited time of its stay in China, the Working Group concentrated its attention on laws applicable to the prosecution, trial and sentencing of individual suspected of criminal offences as well as others charged with disrupting social order and deprived of their liberty by non-judicial organs. The follow-up nature of the visit was emphasized by the fact that the Group met, to the extent possible, with the same authorities and visited the same detention centers as during its previous visits.

"The Working Group was thus able to hold meetings with the Vice Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Public Security, Justice, and Health, as well as with other authorities of those Ministries; the Vice-Chairman of the Supreme People's Court; the Vice-Chairman of the Supreme People's Procuratorate; the Deputy Director General and other members of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the People's National Congress; the Deputy Governor of the Province of Sichuan and of the Tibet Autonomous Region; other authorities of those local Governments; judges, prosecutors, police authorities and penitentiary administration officials. It also held meetings with the Deputy-President and members of the Board of the All China Lawyers Association as well as with the Vice Chair and members of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

"The Working Group visited the following detention facilities (included in a list previously submitted by the Working Group to the authorities): The Beijing Municipal Detention Centre N° 501 at Chaoyang District; the Beijing Juvenile Reformatory; the Beijing Tuang He Re-education Through Labour Camp; the Chengdu Reformatory Penitentiary; the Jinjiang Prison; the Chengdu Detention Centre; a police station in the city of Chengdu; the Prison N° 1 of the Tibet Autonomous Region (Drapchi Prison) and the Lhasa Detention Centre (Gutsa); as well as the Mental Health Hospital at Beijing Fangshang District.

"At those detention facilities, the Working Group was able to meet with and interview more than 70 detainees, chosen at random and from a list previously submitted to the authorities, including pre-trial detainees, convicted individuals serving their sentences, women, minors, and persons held in administrative detention in re-education through labour camps. The interviews with detainees were carried out in conformity with the Working Group's terms of reference, i.e. in private, without the presence of government officials and in locations chosen by the Working Group.

"The Working Group regrets that during its visit to Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, it was informed that certain individuals on its list could not be interviewed due to an internal regulation. The visit to those detainees was particularly important to the Working Group given incidents which occurred in the aftermath of its 1997 visit. Upon learning this information, the Working Group decided to discontinue its visit to Drapchi prison. It should, however, be noted that the authorities made efforts to allow the Working Group to interview a former detainee at Drapchi included in the Working Group's list who had been released under supervision. It also should be mentioned that in cases on which the Working Group was not able to meet with detainees on its list, the Government, at the Working Group's request, submitted information on their legal circumstances.

"The Working Group stresses that the Government showed an attitude of more co-operation and transparency that was the case during its two previous visits. It should be specified that the cities and detention facilities requested by the Group were included in the programme of the visit; official meetings and visits were organized as requested during holidays; and detainees serving their sentences in locations far from the cities visited by the Working Group were transferred in order be interviewed by the Group. The Working Group considers that during its visit, its methods of work and terms of reference were generally respected.

"The Working Group attaches particular importance to the decisions taken recently at the political level in China to further reinforce and develop the human rights protection. In particular, the National People's Congress amended the Constitution in March to add the provision "the state respects and preserves human rights," providing for the first time in Chinese history a constitutional protection of human rights. The Working Group hopes that this constitutional enshrinement of human rights will lay the foundation for

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