While Danish and American witnesses of the Nangpa Pass shooting on a group of Tibetans escaping into Nepal from Tibet in September 2006 gave their accounts to Tibetans in India recently, Mr. Frank Berkhout, a Dutch witness, briefed participants at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 23, 2007.
Berkhout was invited by the International Campaign for Tibet as the main speaker at a panel, “Nangpa Killings, An Eye Witness Account: China’s Use of Force on Civilians, including Children” organized at the United Nations by five NGOs.
Berkhout was among the foreign climbers nearby who were witness to the incident that took place on Nangpa Pass on the Tibet-Nepal border on September 30, 2006. Chinese security personnel opened fire on a group of escaping Tibetans and killed Kelsang Namtso, a 17 year old nun. Some other Tibetans were hurt in the shooting.
Berkhout talked about his two-week stay in Tibet and how that gave him the feeling about the situation of the Tibetan people. Subsequently, when he went on the climbing expedition, he did not realize that he would be witnessing such a shooting that took place on the Nangpa Pass. He felt that it was the obligation of people living in free country to speak out when they see injustice taking place and therefore he came to talk about his experience in Geneva.
The discussion, moderated by Mr. Nick Howen, the Secretary-General of International Commission of Jurists (IC), also heard presentations from Ms. Tsering Jampa, ICT-Europe Executive Director, Mr. Phuntsok Wangchuk, Secretary of Gu Chu Sum Association, Urgen Tenzin, Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and Ms. Tsering Deckyi Ratutsang of Tibetan Women’s Association.
Special features at the panel discussion was the screening of the video-footage of the Nangpa Pass killings, the personal testimony of Phuntsok Wangchuk about prison conditions in Tibet and the release of the report, “Prisoners of Tibet” by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Ms. Tsering Jampa informed the gathering about the content of ICT’s, “Dangerous Crossing:Conditions Impacting the Flight of Tibetan Refugees, 2006 Report.”
On 8 March 2007, the Human Rights Council released a written statement by 12 NGOs, entitled, “Killings of Tibetans on the Nangpa Pass,” which called upon the Special Procedures of the Council and UN the High Commissioner for Human Rights “to make serious consideration of intervening on the killings of Tibetans on the Nangpa Pass and the developments thereafter.”
“We believe failure of the United Nations human rights mandates and mechanisms to speak out on such grave violation of human rights can send the wrong message to the perpetrators of the abuse,” the joint NGO written statement concluded.
Link to Joint NGO Written Statement to UN Human Rights Council (Document A/HRC/4/NGO/91).
The Tibet panel was hosted by World Organisation against Torture, Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, Society for Threatened Peoples, Interfaith International, and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.