UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva October 18, 2012. (Photo/Reuters/Denis Balibouse)
DHARAMSHALA, November 2: UN human rights chief has finally broken her silence on the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, calling on China to urgently address the deep-rooted frustrations with human rights in Tibetan areas.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a release today urged Chinese authorities to “promptly address the longstanding grievances that have led to an alarming escalation in desperate forms of protest, including self-immolations, in Tibetan areas.”
The UN rights chief's strongest remarks yet on the critical situation inside Tibet comes just days ahead of China's once-a-decade transition of power.
62 known Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet and demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. The month of October alone witnessed ten self-immolation protests.
Pillay, who recently began her second term in office, said she was disturbed by "continuing allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights," and pointed to "reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs on the cultural rights of Tibetans."
The release particularly highlighted the case of Jigme Dolma
, a 17-year-old girl, who was severely beaten and sentenced to three years in prison for distributing flyers calling for Tibet’s freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama this August.
“I have had several exchanges with the Chinese Government on these issues. But more needs to be done to protect human rights and prevent violations,” Pillay said. “I call on the Government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights.”
In March this year, following the month-long hunger strike
by three Tibetans in front of the UN Headquarters in New York, Pillay had sent a letter, assuring the hunger strikers that her office was working with China on finalising a date for her trip to Tibet.
In the letter, Pillay further added that she had "assigned special rapporteurs of the United Nations to look into the situation inside Tibet."
In the release today, the High Commissioner urged China to allow independent and impartial monitors to visit and assess the actual conditions on the ground, and to lift restrictions on media access to the region, as a confidence-building measure.
She noted that there are 12 outstanding requests for official visits to China by UN Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues and called on Beijing to facilitate their access.
While appealing to Tibetans to refrain from resorting to extreme forms of protest, such as self-immolation, Pillay stressed that “social stability in Tibet will never be achieved through heavy security measures and suppression of human rights.”
The release also listed few recommendations made by international human rights bodies to the Government of China on Tibet, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter’s recommendation of suspension of non-voluntary resettlement of Tibetan nomadic herders and the UN Committee Against Torture’s recommendation that China conduct a thorough and independent inquiry into events surrounding the large-scale protests that began in March 2008.
In August this year, a global coalition of Tibet advocacy groups had written an open letter
to Pillay, urging her to make Tibet an “urgent priority” and expressed deep concerns over her failure to speak out forcefully on the human rights situation in Tibet.