Posts Tagged ‘psychiatric confinement’

Enforced disappearances in China

August 31, 2022

On 30 August, 2022, the International Day of the Disappeared, the international community must recognize and respond to the widespread use of enforced disappearances in the People’s Republic of China, say an impressive group of NGOs (see list a the end):  

Just over five years ago, on 13 August 2017, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng vanished for the third time. Gao, praised as the ‘Conscience of China’, had long fought for the rights of those who dared to speak out, who belonged to religious minorities, who were evicted from their homes when their land was seized, or who protested against exploitation. For that, he was in and out of prison and separated from his family for nearly a decade. For more than five years, his wife and children have had no idea of his whereabouts, nor even if he is alive. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/33C77656-F58B-454E-B4C7-E1775C954F14]

Gao Zhisheng’s case is severe, and yet represents only the tip of the iceberg: many other activists and lawyers face a similar fate, such as Tang Jitian, disappeared in 2021, tortured, and detained in a secret location. UN experts, including the Working Group on enforced disappearance, have sounded the alarm from as early as 2011 about the use of enforced disappearances against those taking part in China’s human rights movement. It is used to silence those promoting rights and freedoms, to enable acts of torture and ill-treatment without any oversight, and to send a chilling message to any person who may dare to criticize the government. 

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed this when he reminded the international community that enforced disappearance is a ‘method of repression, terror, and stifling dissent’. Relatives – themselves also victims of this crime– are deprived of their right to justice, and to know the truth, constituting a form of cruel and inhumane treatment for the immediate family. 

But no matter how powerful a country is, no matter what security challenges (real or perceived) they may face, the experts rightfully emphasize: ‘There can never be an excuse to disappear people.’ Enforced disappearances are strictly prohibited under international law under any circumstances, and may constitute a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. 

The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for it to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It has disregarded requests for over nine years by the UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country, including its most recent on 7 January 2022. In the meantime, the number of cases of individuals disappeared presented before the Working Group soared, reaching 214 by 2021, out of which 98 remain outstanding. 

It is urgent that the UN, governments, and civil society worldwide press China to end, unequivocally, all forms of enforced disappearance. 

UN experts and civil society actors have documented many practices used by the Chinese authorities amounting to enforced disappearance. Some are written into Chinese law, or Chinese Communist Party guidance; others happen outside the scope of China’s own laws.  Some target individuals for their actions or speech; others are wielded with the intent to terrorize a particular ethnic or religious community. 

Residential Surveillance at a Designated Locations (RSDL)

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’  is allowed for in China’s Criminal Procedure Law, and authorizes holding someone in custody – prior to arrest – for up to six months in an undisclosed location. This ‘location’ is unofficial, selected at the discretion of the police, and the individual is isolated in solitary confinement without access to family, counsel or options to appeal the measure. This is especially true for those activists and dissidents accused of ‘national security crimes’. Incomplete government data admits to use of RSDL in some 23,700 instances, but civil society estimates that for the period 2013 to 2021, the real figure is closer to 85,000, with increased use over time. The practice continues despite having been condemned by UN experts as ‘a form of enforced disappearance’ that ‘may per se amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.’ The experts’ assessment is clear: RSDL must be repealed. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/]

Liuzhi system 

The liuzhi (留置) extralegal detention system mimics the practice of RSDL, but is used to specifically punish any public servant or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member who allegedly ‘violates duties’ or commits ‘economic crimes,’ potentially reaching nearly 300 million victims.  As with RSDL, liuzhi detentions can last up to six months, holding victims incommunicado and in solitary confinement at undisclosed locations. Yet, detentions are outside the scope of China’s laws, including the Criminal Procedure Law, as liuzhi is not part of the criminal justice system. Instead, it is run by China’s powerful extra-judicial anti-graft watchdog, the National Supervision Commission (NSC), a quasi-state body answerable only to the CCP. Legal safeguards, including the right to legal counsel, do not apply to individuals investigated under liuzhi, until and unless their case is sent for criminal prosecution. Incomplete official data acknowledges 11,000 individuals held under liuzhicivil society estimates actual figures to surpass 57,000 disappeared victims. UN experts addressed a general allegation on this issue to China in September 2019.

Psychiatric incarceration (ankang)

Since the 1980s, China’s Ministry of Public Security has locked up individuals targeted for their political and religious beliefs in psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane, known as ankang (安康) (‘peace and health’). Despite legal reforms, police continue to send human rights defenders for compulsory treatment without medical justification in both ankang facilities, and psychiatric hospitals for the general public. Civil society data indicates this is a regular, large-scale practice, where victims are denied contact with the outside world and often subjected to torture and ill-treatment, while families are not informed about their relatives’ forced hospitalization.

Enforced disappearance in Tibet

The Chinese authorities continue to disappear Tibetans, including religious leaders, critics and influential thinkers, subjecting them to torture and ill-treatment, and employing the threat of disappearance to instill widespread fear across Tibet.  In February 2022, six UN experts raised concern over the physical well-being of Tibetan musician Lhundrup Drakpa, writer Lobsang Lhundrub, and school teacher Rinchen Kyi, arrested and disappeared ‘in connection with their cultural activities in favour of the Tibetan minority language and culture.’ In July 2021, four UN experts expressed similar concern over the enforced disappearance of Rinchen Tsultrim and Go Sherab Gyatso, pointing to a ‘worrying pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detentions (…) against the Tibetan religious minority, some of them amounting to enforced disappearances.’ 

The 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist leaders, was disappeared in 1995 at the age of six. The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for his release, UN experts’ concerns, or the UN child rights committee’s request for access to establish his whereabouts and health.

Enforced disappearance in the Uyghur region 

Beginning in 2017 in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR, or Uyghur Region), Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims have been detained incommunicado by Chinese government officials in internment camps, forced labor facilities, official prisons where they serve lengthy sentences, and other facilities where they are at risk of being subject to forced labor. Reports to the UN Working Group on enforced disappearances escalated dramatically, indicating a widespread and systematic practice. While the Chinese government refers to these camps as ‘vocational education and training centers’, administrative detention in the camps has no basis in Chinese, or international law. 

Journalists and NGOs have reported countless testimonies of people whose family members are or were missing and believed to be detained in the XUAR, and yet who have no way to establish their family members’ whereabouts.  They almost never receive official confirmation regarding their family member’s status from the Chinese authorities; efforts to gather information from Chinese consulates or embassies abroad have been largely unsuccessful. Very few detainees are allowed contact with the outside world. Even nominally ‘free’ Uyghurs living in XUAR have been effectively forbidden to speak with their family or friends abroad. Uyghurs in the country and overseas are wholly deprived of their right to truth. 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the international community as a whole to ensure sustained attention and take meaningful action to put an end to all forms of enforced disappearance in China. The authorities must release all those disappeared, ensure their relatives’ right to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence. 

We stand in solidarity with all those missing, and with their loved ones, left longing for them to return alive. 

Signatories

            Amnesty International

            China Against the Death Penalty

            China Aid Association

            Chinese Human Rights Defenders

            Freedom House

            Front Line Defenders

            Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

            Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete Portugal

            Hong Kong Democracy Council

            Hongkongers in Britain

            Hong Kong Watch

            International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 

International Campaign for Tibet

            International Commission of Jurists

            International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

            International Society for Human Rights

            International Tibet Network

            Lawyers for Lawyers

            Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Northern California Hong Kong Club

            Objectif Tibet, Sciez, France

            PEN America

Safeguard Defenders

The Rights Practice

The 29 Principles

Tibet Initiative Deutschland

Tibet Justice Center

Tibet Support Group Ireland

Students for a Free Tibet

Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association

Uyghur Human Rights Project

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress

Two women human rights defenders inside Uzbekistan: amazing story

April 29, 2015

Human rights defenders Adelaida Kim (left) and Elena Urlaeva

Human rights defenders Adelaida Kim (left) and Elena Urlaeva
 I have written often about Uzbekistan’s 2008 MEA Laureate, Mutabar Tadjibaeva [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mutabar-tadjibayeva/], who now lives in exile in Paris, but Radio Free Europe on 29 April, 2015 carries a piece on two women human rights defenders, among the few left in Uzbekistan. Undaunted by the threats, beatings, and forced incarcerations of authorities, they continue to demand their rights. Especially the second case, that of Elena Urlaeva, is amazing:

Adelaida Kim of the Rights Defenders Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU) is one such person. She featured in an earlier Qishloq Ovozi. She was in court then, she was in court again in April, and, as was true in the previous post, she brought a complaint against police.  It started when Kim and colleague Lyudmila Brosalina were demonstrating outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Tashkent on May 8, 2014. Kim was demanding an end to hostilities in eastern Ukraine, specifically the “vicious murders of unarmed people…”

There were only the two of them, but Uzbek authorities worry that such acts could mushroom and lead to antigovernment protests, so any picket is dispersed quickly. Kim was detained and brought to police headquarters. There, Kim says, police Colonel Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev insulted and berated her and told her she should move to Ukraine. On April 8, the hearing opened in Kim’s case against Egamberdyev and two other policemen. Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev arrived, except, as Kim pointed out, it was not the right Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev. The person who showed up in the courtroom on April 8 was a deputy district police chief who was also named Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev. Neither of the two policemen named in Kim’s lawsuit showed up for the trial either. The hearing was adjourned and scheduled to reconvene when the correct Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev was located and summoned. As of the time of this writing, there have not been any reports that the trial has resumed.

Standing outside the courthouse on April 8 was PAU leader Yelena Urlaeva, holding a sign of support for Kim. The story of Urlaeva is almost beyond belief:

Bruce Pannier in his blog Qishloq Ovozi has called her the bravest person in Uzbekistan. Urlaeva has been detained many times. She’s been forcibly committed to psychiatric clinics, physically assaulted, and regularly threatened. [see also https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2004]. Under these circumstances it is indeed amazing that on April 7  sent a letter to Uzbekistan’s interior minister requesting that the head of the department for fighting terrorism in the Mirzo-Ulughbek district of Tashkent, Ilyas Mustafaev, be promoted… It’s not a joke. Urlaeva is totally sincere.

Ilyas Mustafaev (left) is a frequent visitor to Urlaeva's apartment.
Ilyas Mustafaev (left) is a frequent visitor to Urlaeva’s apartment.

Mustafaev has been detaining Urlaeva for some 17 years, but in her letter the PAU leader said Mustafaev has always fulfilled his duties honestly — both as an officer and as a human being. “I understand Mustafaev,” she said. “He’s a soldier and carries out orders.”

Mustafaev has had to come to Urlaeva’s flat so often that he is now considered a guest  “Ilyas calls my mother ‘mama’ and mama calls him ‘son’,” Urlaeva said. HE has even shown up at her birthday parties. Urlaeva recalled that when she was demonstrating in 2010, “someone in civilian clothes” started hitting her and Mustafaev pulled the attacker away and apologized “for his colleague” and took her home. In her letter recommending Mustafaev be raised in rank, Urlaeva wrote, “This worthy officer is already more than 50 years old and is still a major.” She asked that he be promoted by April 28, which Urlaeva knows is Mustafaev’s birthday.

Two Of Uzbekistan’s Best And Bravest.

 

Kazakhstan: Human rights defender Zinaida Mukhortova released from psychiatric confinement

November 4, 2013

On 1 November 2013, human rights defender, Zinaida Mukhortova, was released from Astana Medical Centre for Psychological Health in Kazakhstan. As reported in this blog earlier she had been detained in psychiatric confinement since 9 August 2013 in Balkhash and was transferred to Astana on 30 September 2013 for psychological testing. Since her detention, Zinaida Mukhortova  has been subjected  to forced psychiatric confinement and treated against her will.  Zinaida Mukhortova is a human rights lawyer with more than 10 years’ legal practice. Through her work, she has denounced cases of corruption and interference of political interests in the judiciary.

To find out more about the legal proceedings taken against Zinaida Mukhortova, please see update of 9 October 2013, http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/23924 byFrontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

 

Kazakhstan: Court upholds psychiatric confinement of human rights lawyer Zinaida Mukhortova

October 1, 2013

On 27 September 2013, Karaganda’s regional court of Karaganda confirmed the decision of the Balkhash Court to approve the forced psychiatric confinement of human rights defender and lawyer Zinaida Mukhortova on which this blog reported earlier.  Read the rest of this entry »