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26june20104Dharamshala: Today, June 26, marks the 13th anniversary of the United Nations designated International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Attaching importance to this anniversary, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) commemorates the day to stand in solidarity with the victims of torture throughout the world.

The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) entered into force on June 26, 1987. An important step in the process of globalizing human rights and acknowledging the universal illegality of torture, the United Nations General Assembly ruled to designate June 26 each year as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Though The People’s Republic of China (PRC) signed and ratified the CAT in both 1986 and 1988, torture and ill-treatment continues to be an endemic feature in the Chinese administered network of prisons and detention centres across the Tibetan plateau. Tibetans who voice their support for the Dalai Lama or have divergent views to those of the Communist regime have been primary targets of torture, ill-treatment or other forms of human rights violations.  It has been widely reported that Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) are repeatedly using torture as a means of intimidating, investigating and extracting information or confessions from real or perceived offenders and detainees.

In an unprecedented ruling, China recently passed a law prohibiting evidence with unclear origins, confession obtained through torture, and testimony acquired through torture and threats in death penalty cases that are under appeal. However, recent cases illustrate that convictions in the Chinese court system are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police forces to use torture.  Earlier this week, Karma Samdrup, a Tibetan environmentalist once praised and named philanthropist of the year in 2006 by state broadcaster CCTV, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, deprivation of political rights for five years and fined 10,000 yuan ($ 1,500) on highly contested charges of grave robbing and dealing in looted antiquities.

In his statement to the court, he reported that during months of interrogation, officers beat him, deprived him of sleep for days on end, and drugged him with a substance that made his eyes and ears bleed, all part of an effort to force him to sign a confession.  He lost at least 40 pounds in police custody. This latest case highlights official rampant use of torture to extract confession despite the official pronouncement of a new regulation to invalidate such evidence.

Such continued use of torture and ill-treatment in the conviction of suspects, coupled with the belief that a subtle form of mental torture is being used on prisoners in Tibet of which long-term effects include suicide due to psychological trauma, has prompted TCHRD to call into question the efficacy of the new regulation.  The Centre its support for the UN call for the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment and respect for human rights.

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