International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2016: China must end the torture of Uyghur detainees and seek genuine reform of judicial system

Cu, 06/24/2016 - 19:25 -- Kanat
An Amnesty International photo of weighted leg cuffs used by Chinese police on their detainees. Photo: AP

For immediate Release
June 24, 2016 11:00am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on China to end the practice of torture and immediately reform the criminal justice system to meet internationally recognized human rights standards.

“It is time for China to end the untruths over the use of torture in East Turkestan. Carefully documented cases of Uyghurs tortured by the Chinese state lay bare China’s insincerity to its international obligations. Uyghur victims of torture should receive appropriate restitution and perpetrators held accountable,” said UHRP Director Alim Seytoff.

Mr. Seytoff added: “China does not get to use the multilateral system only for its advantage. China cannot pick and choose which human rights standards it should meet if it wants to be a responsible member of the international community. Torture constitutes a serious human rights violation and China’s record is severely lacking. Meaningful and genuine reform of the criminal justice system is imperative to guarantee the rights of Uyghurs in Chinese detention.”

According to the United Nations website commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture:

Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

Despite its status as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, China continues to carry out acts of state sanctioned violence against its citizens. To date, no effective mechanisms have been initiated in China to curb the practice of torture within its borders and in East Turkestan.

Uyghurs in Chinese government custody frequently suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment. In late 2005, after making his first official visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Mr. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that “torture was widespread” in China. Mr. Nowak added that there has been a “consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs.”

In November 2015, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) for consideration during the 56th session of the Committee from November 9 to December 9, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. During the session, China’s fifth CAT review was held on November 17 to 18.

In the submission, UHRP and the WUC highlighted several cases of Uyghurs subjected to torture by the Chinese state. Among the documented Uyghur victims included were Shohret Tursun, Noor-Ul-Islam Sherbaz and Tudahun Hoshur. Suggested reforms contained in the document were a legitimate and effective complaints mechanism for victims of torture and a strict enforcement of compliance to legal procedures during criminal investigations.

In the outcome report of China’s fifth CAT review, the committee stressed a number of recommendations, including:

…all detainees are afforded in practice all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer without delay; to have immediate access to examination and treatment by independent doctors, without conditioning such access on the permission of officials; to be informed of the reasons for arrest and the nature of any charges against them; to be registered at the place of detention; to inform promptly a close relative or a third party concerning their arrest; and to be brought before a judge without delay.

UHRP calls on China to immediately implement the reforms of the criminal-justice system outlined by the United Nations Committee Against Torture and to put in place a complaints procedure for torture victims, such as the Uyghur cases described above, in order to hold state officials accountable.