Tibet: UN Envoy Urges China to End Prisoner "Re-Education"
The United Nations investigator on torture has called on China to abolish its "re-education through labour" system, charging that it treated political prisoners in an inhumane and degrading way.
Manfred Nowak, U.N. special rapporteur on torture, also urged authorities to release all political prisoners and people held for exercising their right to freedom of speech, assembly and religion.
His report, covering a rare two-week visit late last year, reiterates his charge that torture is widespread in China -- home to the world's biggest prison population. China has denied abuse and torture charges made by Nowak in December and asked the U.N. envoy to think again.
The 59-page report, posted on the Web site www.ohchr.org, goes further in its strongly worded recommendations than statements made by him at the end of that trip.
"'Re-education through Labour' and similar forms of forced re-education in prisons, pre-trial detention centres and psychiatric hospitals should be abolished," Nowak wrote.
Groups targeted for re-education were political activists, members of Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities and practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual group which Beijing outlawed in 1999, according to the Austrian law professor.
Nowak visited 10 detention facilities, holding private interviews with about 30 detainees of his choice.
Many reported that the unjust deprivation of their liberty together with the forced re-education system "caused more severe pain and suffering than the physical torture they might have endured during interrogation by the police", he said.
"Indeed, some of these measures of re-education through coercion, humiliation and punishment aim at altering the personality of detainees up to the point of even breaking their will," Nowak said.
This constituted "a form of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which is incompatible with the core values of any democratic society based upon a culture of human rights".
Nowak also said that although basic conditions in detention facilities appeared satisfactory, he was struck by a "palpable level of fear and self-censorship when talking to detainees".
However, he had "full cooperation" from the government
during the visit which the United Nations had sought since 1995.
His report was submitted to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, but will be taken up by its successor body, the new U.N. Human Rights Council, which opens in Geneva in June.