Jigme Gyatso

Tibetan political prisoner and former monk Jigme Gyatso.

In conjunction with the June 26 commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the International Campaign for Tibet calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to abide by its obligations as a party to the 1987 United Nations Convention against Torture, including to immediately cease the ill treatment of Tibetan political prisoners, and also to allow access by the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN human rights mandate holders to its prisons.

In his statement released on the 26th, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “In too many countries, people’s legitimate demands for freedom and human rights are met with brutal repression. by concretely supporting victims of torture, the international community will prove its unequivocal determination and commitment to fight torture and impunity.”

China engages in widespread and systematic violations of the Torture Convention in Tibet. Police, prison guards and other security officials routinely torture Tibetan detainees, particularly those held for political crimes. In practice, most of these perpetrators enjoy impunity for their acts. The widespread use of torture in Tibet is corroborated by numerous reports from Tibetan refugees who have suffered torture. According to the US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, “political and religious dissidents were singled out for particularly harsh treatment…Tibetans returned from Nepal reportedly suffered torture while incarcerated or otherwise in official custody, including electric shocks, exposure to cold, and severe beatings…Security forces routinely subjected prisoners to ‘political investigation’ sessions and punished them if they were deemed insufficiently loyal to the state.”

The case of Tibetan political prisoner, Jigme Gyatso, who is serving an 18-year sentence on charges of “counter-revolution” and “inciting splittism,” is emblematic of the ill treatment that political prisoners often receive in China and Tibet. During his years in prison, Jigme Gyatso has endured torture and beatings on many occasions, including an incident in 1997 that left him unable to move for days. Jigme Gyatso is scheduled for release in 2014; however, fears for his well-being increased after a November 2005 meeting with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak, in which Jigme Gyatso courageously shared the dire circumstances of his imprisonment. A full account of his case is available here: Fears for welfare of Tibetan prisoner following meeting with UN Rapporteur.