By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, July 28: Nepal has forcibly handed over three fleeing Tibetan refugees to Chinese authorities in early June, the United Nations said on Wednesday, adding it was "extremely concerned" by the move.
A Tibetan in-exile (C) breaks into tears following her release from a jail in Kathmandu in March, 2010. Nepal has forcibly repatriated three Tibetan refugees, the United Nations said on Wednesday, adding it was "extremely concerned" by the move. (AFP/File/Prakash Mathema)
The UN refugee agency said it had already written to the Nepalese government about the incident.
"Three Tibetans were forcefully returned to China from Nepal in early June 2010. It is a very serious issue and we are extremely concerned," Nini Gurung, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Kathmandu, told AFP
Meanwhile, the Washington-based Tibet advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) has published a report giving the details of the incident.
Two of the repatriated refugees - a young woman and a monk - are now in jail in Tibet, ICT’s report said.
Two monks from Korchak monastery in Tibet, located close to the border with Nepal, and a woman from Shigatse, who was probably a government official, were sent back in an extraordinary way, involving flying them back in a helicopter under the escort of a Nepali politician, the report said, citing local sources.
The two monks were identified as Dawa, 20, and Dorjee, 21, while the woman was a 22-year-old identified as Penpa.
Penpa and one of the monks have been jailed and will serve around six months, ICT said, citing local sources. The other monk however has been allowed to return to the monastery.
It said the three were detained in early June by Nepalese police in Nepal's Humla district bordering Purang (Ch: Burang
) county in Ngari prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
The Chinese authorities were looking for the woman, hoping to stop her from reaching Kathmandu and travelling onward to India, ICT said.
According to the report, Chinese border police were also in touch with their Nepali counterparts and after the three were caught, they were taken by helicopter to the border, accompanied by an unidentified Nepali politician and a policeman.
The incident was first reported last week
by ABC Nepalese television, but full details have never emerged.
This is the first such case reported since 2003, when 18 Tibetans, some of them children, were detained by Nepalese police and handed over to Chinese authorities in Tibet in a move that sparked international condemnation.
The ICT said it has reasons to fear there could have been other unobserved deportations in the remote border areas.
Nepal has traditionally given safe passage to fleeing Tibetan refugees under an informal agreement between the government and the UN refugee agency.
The "Gentlemen's Agreement" between the government of Nepal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), put in place in 1989, when Nepal stopped giving them refugee status, provides for the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through Nepalese territory and onward to India.
By forcibly returning the three Tibetan refugees to Chinese border police, ICT said Nepal has violated the well-established agreement with the UNHCR and contravened its obligations under international law.
"Nepal is duty-bound under its own agreement with the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) to ensure the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through its territory," ICT's newly appointed
president Mary Beth Markey said.
"We urge the Nepal government and the UNHCR to work together to investigate this incident, including China's extra-territorial role, and to adopt remedies that prevent future occurrences of refoulement from Nepal,including written instructions and trainings for immigration and border police in proper procedures and international human rights standards," Markey said.
Nepal government has lately vowed to check "anti-China activities" to strengthen friendly ties with China, a mojor major donor for the impoverished country.
The forced repatriations followed reports of a new aid package from China designed to help Nepal improve border security.
The governments of the two countries will set up a joint mechanism to help share intelligence on "anti-China activities" in Nepal, Nepalese media reported, following a bilateral security talks in Kathmandu.