CHINA: Adoption by the UPR Working Group of a recommendation encouraging the repression of human rights defenders

Press release

Geneva-Paris, February 13, 2009. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), expresses its deepest concern about an extremely worrying recommendation that was included in the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, and which might be interpreted as encouraging the repression against human rights defenders.

On February 11, 2009, the Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group issued its outcome report on China, to be adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2009, after the Working Group conducted its review of China’s human rights record on February 9, 2009.

The Observatory regrets that China rejected many of the recommendations made by UN Member States to implement specific measures and reforms to advance human rights in China, including recommendations to protect human rights defenders (such as to investigate reports of harassment and detention of human rights defenders, including alleged mistreatment while in police custody, with a view to ending impunity), and merely adopted recommendations that were overly vague.

The Observatory is all the more concerned that China accepted a recommendation formulated by Cuba, according to which China should "maintain, in strict compliance of law, to avoid the impunity for people who are qualifying themselves as human rights defenders with the objective of attacking the interests of the state and the people of China".

"This recommendation is unacceptable, and sends a very bad signal to Chinese human rights defenders who are strongly repressed on a daily basis due to their peaceful human rights activities, and as such is a flagrant violation of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998", said Eric Sottas, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory recalls in particular that as of January 8, 2009, 101 signatories to the "Charter 08", launched on December 9, 2008 on the Internet and calling for political reforms that promote human rights and democracy, have been questioned, summoned and intimidated by the police in 19 municipalities and provinces.

"Over the past year in China, the space for dissent shrank, and crackdown on dissenting or critical voices continued unabated. The situation has even worsened lately. The Cuban recommendation, to be adopted by a United Nations body, opens the door to further repression of human rights defenders in China", said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

The Observatory calls upon the member States of the Human Rights Council to bring amendments to the outcome report within two weeks, demanding the cancellation of the recommendation on human rights defenders formulated by Cuba, and - more generally - of these which are contrary to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other human rights standards and conventions ratified by China.

For further information, please contact:

OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH : Gaël Grilhot / Karine Appy, + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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