Geneva, 8 June – In a strongly worded public statement issued today, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the UN Human Rights Council called upon the Chinese authorities “to disclose the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been subject to enforced disappearances in China, including a group of Tibetan monks whose fate or whereabouts still remain unknown.”

Speaking out on the tense situation in Ngaba, the WGEID referred to the information it received about the arrests of more than 300 monks of Kirti Monastery on the night of 21 April who were taken in military trucks to unknown locations. (ICT report, Two elderly Tibetans killed as hundreds of monks detained from Kirti; crackdown deepens)

“We call on the authorities to provide full information on the fate and the whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared,” said the Working Group, acknowledging reports that some of the monks had been released. “We encourage the authorities to undertake full investigations into the on-going practice of enforced disappearances and ensure that those responsible are prosecuted and receive sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime.”

This is the Working Group’s second public statement on China in two months. On 8 April, 2011, in a press statement the Group said that according to the allegations received, “there is a pattern of enforced disappearances in China, where persons suspected of dissent are taken to secret detention facilities, and are then often tortured and intimidated, before being released or put into ‘soft detention’ and barred from contacting the outside world.” (Read the full text: UNHR, China: UN expert body concerned about recent wave of enforced disappearances)

The April statement also recalled unresolved cases of disappearances pending with the Chinese authorities, including that of the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet. The WGEID said: “A case going back 16 years is that concerning Gedhun Choekyi Nyima known as the 11th Panchen Lama. He disappeared in 1995 when he was six years old. While the Chinese authorities have admitted taking him, they have continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance. A number of human rights mechanisms including the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have all called for his whereabouts to be revealed, to no avail.”

“The Rapporteurs have acted responsibly according to their mandate in calling out China to account for the whereabouts of the Kirti Monks and, indeed, the Panchen Lama who has been disappeared since 1995. The weight of their statement supports well-documented findings on China’s record of abuse in Tibet and contributes to the case for Member action against China at the Human Rights Council,” said Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

In today’s statement the Working Group while urging the Chinese authorities to fulfill its promise to ratify the international Covenants on Civil and Political Rights as well as on Disappearances and to be mindful of its obligations to abide by the highest standards in the field of human rights reiterated that: “Enforced disappearance is a terrible practice that must not be permitted to occur anywhere and no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify an enforced disappearance… Family members should be promptly informed on the fate and whereabouts of people reportedly disappeared. Those who have suffered the fate of being subject to an enforced disappearance should be provided with integral reparations.”

Established in 1980 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor to today’s UN Human Rights Council), the Working Group strives to meet its mandate of determining the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared.

Full text of WGEID statement is available here »