China violated international law in reaction to 2008 Tibet protests: HRW
China violated international law in reaction to 2008 Tibet protests: HRW
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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] charged Wednesday that Chinese authorities used excessive force [press release] in responding to the 2008 Tibetan demonstrations [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and tortured those in custody following the demonstrations in violation of international law. In a report, “I Saw It With My Own Eyes” [materials], HRW said that the Chinese government violated the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials [text], which limits the use of force to that which is strictly necessary to protect life or to apprehend perpetrators of violent crimes. Chinese officials reportedly violated this by using disproportionate force, including opening fire on protesters on at least four occasions and conducting large-scale arrests. The Chinese government also violated international law in its handling of suspects held for involvement in the demonstrations by torturing and brutalizing them, not revealing the conditions in which suspects were held and not allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website] to visit them, according to HRW. The report explained:

Such tactics are unlikely to resolve, and may even aggravate, the longstanding grievances that prompted the protests in the first place, undermining prospects for long-term stability in the region. China urgently needs to investigate the protests and their aftermath, and open the region to media and international monitors. It also needs to examine the conduct of its security forces, which eyewitnesses consistently say used disproportionate force; deliberately brutalized and mistreated Tibetans[;] … and deprived detainees of minimum guarantees of due process of law, including formal notification of where, or why, they were held.

HRW went on to call for the Chinese government to release of all Tibetan detainees that have not been charged with a crime and to release accurate statistics about all Tibetans held and about the number of casualties. The report also urged the international community to pressure China to end forced disappearances, prosecute those who carried out the human rights abuses and allow an investigation into the violence to be conducted by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website].

In March 2009, HRW reported that the Chinese government has not accounted for hundreds of Tibetan protesters [JURIST report] arrested in connection with the March 2008 demonstrations, revealing a thorough review regarding the numbers of arrests, detentions and trials of the protesters. There were allegedly several hundred protesters still in custody and documents have revealed that, contrary to information supplied by the Chinese government, several demonstrators died after the March 2008 demonstrations. To date there has been no public information regarding the trials of the remaining demonstrators. In June 2008, the Chinese government released more than 1000 demonstrators [JURIST report] detained by authorities during the demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet, two days after Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on China to free all detainees who engaged in peaceful protest [JURIST report]. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests.