NGO Statement Highlights Human Rights Defenders in Tibet
Switzerland Appeals for an Immediate End to Executions by China
Tibet Bureau Geneva, 22 April 2003: As the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights ended its fifth week of work on 17 April, Switzerland while announcing its
candidature for the membership of this UN human rights body for the period
2007-2009, appealed to China, Iran and United States of America to immediately
suspend the practice of executions.
During the fifth week of work, two NGO written statements on Tibet by Society
for Threatened Peoples and Transnational Radical Party were distributed to
the Commission when it discussed the items dealing with human rights of women
and human rights defenders.
The statement by Society for Threatened Peoples informs the Commission about
the struggle of human rights defenders in Tibet saying: The cultural assimilation
of Tibetans has resulted in the denial of the full spectrum of human rights.
Any expression of dissent is immediately punished by arrest and, in virtually
every case, torture. “Dissent” in Tibet extends to any effort of Tibetans
to preserve their culture and their identity as a people with a history,
language, culture, religion and political and economic systems distinct from
that of the Chinese people. Therefore any act of political dissent by a Tibetan,
in the face of the virtual certainty of arrest and torture, is an act of
a human rights defender. Tibetan dissidents protest as a form of sacrifice
and resistance on behalf of an entire people denied their fundamental rights,
including their right to self-determination.
The statement by Italy-based Transnational Radical Party highlights violence
against Tibetan women perpetrated by the Chinese authorities, especially
on female political prisoners. It calls the Commission’s attention ?to the
pattern of gender-based violence that Tibetan women suffer at the hands of
the Chinese authorities. This pattern includes rape and other sexual torture
perpetrated against Tibetan women, primarily nuns, as punishment for non-violent
political protest. Moreover, these acts take place within the context of
a broad and ongoing pattern of human rights violations against the Tibetan
people, whose foundational right to self-determination has been denied for
the past fifty years, as recognized by General Assembly Resolution 1723 (XVI)
(1961) (and the 1965 resolution 2106A (xx), which reaffirms the 1961 one).
On 11 April, a press release of Amnesty International said that 1,060 executions
took place in China in 2002 adding that the actual number was believed to
be much higher. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading
punishment and a violation of the right to life, the press release said.
It is time to get rid of this barbaric punishment forever, the release
On the question of the death penalty, the UN Secretary-General reports to
the Commission that the trend towards abolition continues, with an increase
in the figure of completely abolitionist countries from 76 to 77. The number
of countries that are abolitionist for ordinary crimes has increased from
11 to 15. The overall number of retentionist countries remains at 71. There
is also an increase in the number of countries which have ratified international
instruments providing for the abolition of the death penalty.
In the report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Commission
on access to medication in the context of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, the
Chinese authorities provided information on its national strategy and plan
of action to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS for 2001-2005, which
is being implemented at provincial, regional, municipal and local levels.
Priorities include measures for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS,
awareness-raising and educational activities, and initiatives to tackle root
According to the information provided to the United Nations, China?s plan
of action sets out a number of measures to achieve specific goals and targets
such as ensuring the safety of blood transfusions, stepping up health education,
addressing high-risk behaviour, improving health-care services for people
living with HIV/AIDS, establishing effective monitoring systems, increasing
training in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted
diseases, and conducting AIDS related research.
On 15 April, when the Commission discussed the item dealing with the subject
of human rights defenders around the world, Ms. Hina Jalani (Pakistan), the
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders
presented her report. She told the Commission that her report reflects continuing
concerns for the situation of defenders striving for the rights of the socially
or politically marginalized, such as minorities, indigenous peoples and rural
populations. Conditions resulting from the political climate in many countries
threaten the work of pro-democracy activists and defenders of the right to
While reports of thematic special procedures of the Commission continued
to be released at the 59th session, Ms. Anne-Marie Lizin (Belgium), the independent
expert on the relationship between extreme poverty and human rights, in her
report says that China’s experience merits special study, taking into account
the country’s economic prospects, in order to identify the ingredients of
success. It would, for example, be interesting to determine whether public
policies are diminishing rather than reinforcing ethnic distinctions between
In the report of Ms. Fatma-Zohra Ouhachi-Vesley (Algeria), Special Rapporteur
on adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous
products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, informs the Commission
about allegations received from Basel Action Network that substantial amounts
of hazardous electronic wastes are exported from United States and Canada
to Asian countries such as China for recycling. The Basel Action Network
alleges that improper disposal of electronic waste that contains heavy metals
and pollutants poses a significant threat to human health, leading to respiratory
illness, skin infections, stomach diseases and other conditions. The report
submits that such exports of electronic waste are contrary to the Basel Convention
to which Canada is a party but not the United States.
The Special Rapporteur says that her request for comments by the Governments
of China and United States on the allegations made by Basel Action Network
remains unanswered. Canada, on the other hand informed the Special Rapporteur
that Ottawa prohibits the exports of hazardous wastes to countries that
have notified Environment Canada that they themselves prohibit imports of
such waste. As of November 2002, China had not notified Environment Canada
of any ban on the import of electronic waste. In view of the allegations
of electronic waste export to China, Environment Canada has requested information
from the Chinese authorities as to whether China has a prohibition of the
import of electronic scrap.
Human Rights Advocates, a NGO in consultative status with the United Nations,
in a written statement to the Commission which raises the issue of import
of electronic waste in China, recommends continued investigation by the Special
Rapporteur into particularly troubling areas and the conditions that workers
are exposed to due to economic pressures to provide jobs, despite a lack
of training and safety equipment or standards. The NGO also recommends the
Special Rapporteur to visit China for the above purpose.
By the time of the 59th session, the Commission on Human Rights had established
29 thematic special procedures and 8 country special rapporteurs.
For more information on the 59th UN Commission on Human Rights, please visit