Geneva [Switzerland], June 29 (ANI): A top UN independent expert on Monday highlighted concerns that activists in China were being abused and sentenced to long prison terms or house arrest.
For doing "peaceful human rights work", individuals were being denied access to medical treatment, lawyers and their families, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) said in a statement.
"Condemning human rights defenders, in particular to long terms in prison for their peaceful human rights work, abusing them in custody and failing to provide them with adequate medical care is something that cannot continue," said UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor.
"I have received countless reports indicating that the mistreatment of human rights defenders in Chinese custody remains endemic and may amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, despite the plethora of documentation and recommendations from UN mechanisms over the years, including from the Committee Against Torture."
She said some defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng, have been forcibly disappeared, while some others, such as Guo Hongwei, have died in prison.
Lawlor said she was aware of at least 13 human rights defenders who have been sentenced on spurious charges, such as 'picking quarrels' or 'provoking trouble', to 10 years or more in jail for peacefully defending the rights of others.
"Issuing arbitrary prison sentences, in particular long-term prison sentences, to defenders in connection to their human rights work is an unacceptable attempt to silence them and their efforts, and to intimidate and deter others from engaging in this legitimate work," Lawlor said. "Many have been denied access to lawyers of their choosing and to their families. In some instances, the same lawyers and their relatives are also targeted.
"I call on the Chinese authorities to immediately release these human rights defenders from detention, and ensure that they can continue their meaningful and necessary human rights work without fear of retribution of any kind, including against their relatives."
The expert is in contact with the Chinese authorities on the matter.
The expert's call was endorsed by: Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Tae-Ung Baik (Chair), Henrikas Mickevicius, (Vice Chair), Aua Balde, Bernard Duhaime and Luciano Hazan, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Ivana Radacic, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. (ANI)