By Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
United Nations, Geneva, September 20 – Yesterday morning nine NGOs with United Nations Consultative Status raised the case of the missing Panchen Lama of Tibet during an interactive dialogue at the UN Human Rights Council which began its second session on Monday at the United Nations here. The dialogue was in connection with presentation to the Council of the 2005 report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance of the final session of the dissolved UN Commission on Human Rights.
The two-minute time limit joint NGO statement delivered by Movement Against Racism and Friendship Among All Peoples (MRAP) said: “We remain deeply concerned about the disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents, and request the Working Group to update the Human Rights Council about its current efforts on this outstanding case. Furthermore, we would like to know what is the opinion of the Working Group about the recommendation made last year by the Committee on the Rights of the Child that China: “Allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima while respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents.”
The statement went on to remind that after its first meeting this year that “the Working Group discussed communications received on the case of the Panchen Lama of Tibet, China” and a press release issued on 2 May 2006 by the Group further stated that “the Working Group noted that this session coincided with the 17th birthday of the Panchen Lama who disappeared when he was only 6 years old.”
In its presentation of the report to the Council, Prof. Stephen J. Toope (Canada), one of the five members of the Working Group, did not mention China, the expert Group, nevertheless, said that it was “particularly concerned about reports it has received of the disappearance of children and, in a few cases, of people with physical and mental disabilities”. Prof. Toope further added that: “All States have an obligation to protect such vulnerable groups. We will continue to monitor this issue closely, and treat all such cases as particularly serious.”
After observing debate, Ms. Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet Europe, welcoming the NGO statement said: “We had hoped that the Working Group would give a response but we understand that there was also under time restrictions of the Council in such discussions. We will continue to urge the Working Group to intervene regularly with the Chinese authorities to ascertain the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama.”
According to Prof. Toope’s presentation, the Working Group was the first UN human rights thematic mechanism to be established with a global mandate. “Last year we marked the 25th anniversary of its creation. Since its inception, the Working Group has transmitted more than 50,000 individual cases to Governments in more than 90 countries,” he added.
The current session of the UN General Assembly which began this month in New York is now expected to adopt the draft International Convention for the Protection of Persons Against Disappearance that has already been adopted by the first session of the Human Rights Council.
Apart from MRAP, the other NGOs who jointly raised the case of the Panchen Lama were, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Society for Threatened Peoples, Transnational Radical Party, Interfaith International, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, Pax Romana, International Federation for the Protection of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and other Minorities and Forum Asia.