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China: UN experts demand information on nine imprisoned human rights defenders

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The experts sounded the alarm on the lack of information provided by Chinese authorities – deeming it a deliberate attempt to “make the world forget” about the individuals who are spending year after year in isolation. 

Between 2010 and 2019, nine environmental human rights defenders were arrested and imprisoned after they protested against allegedly illegal mining activities and hunting of endangered species in Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province and the Tibetan Autonomous Province.  

Lack of clarity 

“There is very little information available about the circumstances of their detention, trial and sentencing, but with cases where we do have sufficient information, we know these activists were sentenced to between seven and 11 years in prison,” they said. 

According to the UN experts, the families of the defenders – Anya Sengdra,Dorjee Daktal, Kelsang Choklang, Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namesy- have been “kept in the dark about their fate.”

They went on to highlight the lack of clarity around whether the individuals had received access to legal counsel, medical care or where they were being held.

The panel of experts consists of Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

They urged the Chinese government to provide details on why and where the activists are held, their health conditions and to ensure they have adequate medical care. They also asked the government to permit the families of the detained visitation access. 

Sophie Helle, Human Rights Officer for Ms. Lawlor, told UN News that “at the end of July, several mandate holders sent an allegation letter to the Government of China to raise concerns about Tibetan human rights defenders being detained.”

Although the communication is private, she confirmed that the Chinese Permanent Mission in Geneva has also been notified of the allegations.

Since the human rights defenders were sentenced, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was recognised at the international level by the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. 

“If China is committed to tackle the impacts of climate change, it should refrain from persecuting environmental human rights defenders and release all nine immediately,” the experts said.

About Special Rapporteurs

The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. 

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis, are independent of any government or organisation, and serve in their individual capacity. 

They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.


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