AFP: UN body criticises China over 'widespread' torture allegations


GENEVA (AFP) — A UN body has expressed deep concern over allegations of widespread torture in China and called on the country to fully probe rights abuses.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture, meeting in Geneva, also revisited the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, urging the government to grant reparations and investigate the crackdown.

"The committee remains deeply concerned about the continued allegations, corroborated by numerous Chinese legal sources, of routine and widespread use of torture and ill treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings," it said in a report released Friday.

It hit out at "continued reliance on confessions as a common form of evidence for prosecution, thus creating conditions that may facilitate the use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects," quoting the case of dissident and human rights militant Yang Chunlin.

The committee also criticised China's handling of its relations with the Tibetan Autonomous Region, noting there had been "longstanding reports of torture, beatings, shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks and nuns."

No inquiry had been carried out into the arrests, firing on crowds of peaceful demonstrators, torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during the recent repression in Tibet, the experts noted.

Regarding the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown, the committee said China "should conduct a full and impartial investigation" of the events.

It added that Chinese authorities should "provide information on the persons who are still detained from that period" as well as "offer apologies and reparation as appropriate and prosecute those found responsible for excessive use of force, torture and other ill treatment."

More generally, the committee pointed to "reports of abuses in custody, including high numbers of deaths... Reeducation through labour for individuals who have never had their case tried in court, nor the possibility of challenging their administrative detention," and secret detention facilities.

The UN experts expressed concern about the fate of Hu Jia, like other human rights backers the victim of harassment and violence committed by thugs who were unofficially recruited by the authorities.

The Committee Against Torture mentioned allegations of removal of organs from members of the Falun Gong sect for transplant. The special UN rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak was quoted as saying that "an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with the beginning of the persecution of (Falun Gong practitioners)."

The committee was also concerned about the fate of North Korean refugees who were turned back at the border despite the risk that they would be subjected to torture in their own country.

Finally, the committee said it was worried about the conditions of people on death row who were chained day and night and whose organs could be removed for transplant after their death without their prior consent, according to information received by the experts.

Earlier this month, the committee's chief rapporteur Felice Gaer had accused the Chinese of not providing sufficient information.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang denied this and said earlier this month that "it is China's consistent stance that we oppose torture."

Gaer had said China had been unwilling to release data on individual cases by invoking its State Secrets Act to withhold information.


Nov 22,2008
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