By Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
United Nations, Geneva, 11 March – Yesterday at the Seventh Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Society for Threatened Peoples, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Germany, criticized Nepal as a country which maintains the practice of handing over Tibetans to the Chinese authorities.
The statement delivered by Tenzin S. Kayta told the Council that arbitrary detention of “of asylum-seekers or illegal immigrants is particularly disturbing when a host country maintains the practice of handing them over to another country. Nepal is one such country when it concerns Tibetan refugees”
The NGO statement highlighted that case of a Tibetan man named Tsering Dhondup who was handed over to China by the Nepalese authorities on 25 February. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry website, on 26 February, its spokesperson when questioned about the case during a regular press briefing in Beijing said: “I am not aware of the specific case”.
The NGO urged the Working Group “to seek clarifications from both Nepal and China about the current status of Tsering Dhondup and other Tibetans who met with similar fate since 2003.”
Society for Threatened Peoples said that it was “deeply concerned about this latest development in Nepal since such cases of arbitrary detention of Tibetans have taken place in previous years.” Tsering Dhondup’s current status and whereabouts remains unknown after he was arrested by a police force of 60 during a 23 February late-night raid at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu.
The last widely known case of Tibetan being handed over by Nepal to the Chinese authorities was that of a Tibetan named Tsering Wangchen which happened on 16 July 2007.
The Council was discussing three reports from its experts, including that by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which this year stated that it “considers that taking aliens into custody without a legal basis is totally unjustifiable and amounts to arbitrary detention under category I of the categories applicable” when cases are considered by it.”
A 2006 study, “Dangerous Journey: Documenting the Experience of Tibetan Refugees” in which participants ranged in age from 8 to 56 years said: “The average length of their journey from Tibet to Nepal was 34 days. During their journey, a majority of the refugees encountered authorities or became involved in altercations with Nepali Maoist groups. Most of these interactions resulted in extortion and threats of expulsion. Several Tibetans were tortured, beaten with weapons, threatened with being shot, and robbed. Three women were sexually assaulted at gunpoint.”
Human Rights Treaty Bodies of the United Nations have been alerted about the situation of Tibetan refugees in Nepal since the country is a State Party of many UN human rights instruments. For instance, on 21 September 2005, the Committee on the Rights of the Child “expressed concern about the reports of deportation of Tibetan asylum-seekers to China by Nepal, including unaccompanied minors and the closure of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in January 2005.”
In one of the conclusions, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights while reporting on the human rights situation in Nepal to this session of the Council said: “Transforming a climate of impunity into a culture of accountability will be essential to a successful transformation and sustainable peace. The lack of progress in addressing impunity is deeply worrying. It will require political will, courage and determination to move the process forward, but it is one that cannot wait.”