By Tenzin Sangmo
Dolkun Isa at the conference on 'Uighur minority in China' in Montreal in March 2019. (Denis Balibouse_Reuters)
DHARAMSHALA, July 30: The Tibet Justice Center(TJC) and its partners said that United Nations Human Rights system, which is the sole mechanism for those living under repressive regimes to seek accountability, is being systemically undermined by perpetrator regimes.
The report titled, “Compromised Space: Bullying and Blocking at the UN Human Rights Mechanisms,” identifies a systemic attack on the United Nations human rights system by these governments, led largely by China, Russia and Iran, designed to shield them from accountability for human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
The report, launched this month, is based on three years of study conducted by TJC and its partners at the University of Oxford and UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization), supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.
“It is based on interviews and testimonies from 77 human rights defenders working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other people living in nation-states whose political systems do not create governance structures representative of all.”
The blocking tactics include efforts to deny civil society groups participatory status at the UN (so-called “ECOSOC status”), to bully and block them when they are able to access the UN, to crowd out the UN space with “GONGOs” – government-sponsored organizations posing as NGOs – and to harass, intimidate and take reprisals against activists and their families, whether at home or abroad.
The report found that China has regularly detained or imprisoned activists from its Southern Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan communities who have sought to travel to the UN, with a result that no Tibetan from Tibet who is acting independently of the Chinese government has ever managed to leave Chinese-occupied Tibet to testify at the UN in Geneva or New York, and return safely;
The report specifies the story of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress and Vice President of the UNPO, as indicative of all of these actions. “Mr. Isa and his organization have regularly been denied ECOSOC status at the United Nations, his access to the UN buildings and events have been restricted due to Chinese demands, he and his supporters have been followed and harassed in the UN building.”
UNPO’s General Secretary Ralph Bunche, in response to the launch of the report, said “Unfortunately, democratic states are not doing nearly enough to push back against this phenomenon and in some instances are even adopting the conduct that we see from the repressive states.”
He further said the withdrawal of the USA from the UN’s Human Rights Council has certainly not helped matters, but other states are simply not doing enough to counter this problem and protect human rights defenders.
The report recommends that OHCHR should work with UN mechanisms to create safe spaces for defenders to give testimony during treaty body reviews and the Universal Periodic Review, which are free from government-affiliated organizations posing as NGOs and other possible state agents.
Tibet Justice Center, founded in 1989 and based in the US, is an independent volunteer committee of lawyers and other experts with a dedicated mission to advocate human rights and self-determination for the Tibetan people.