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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Day of the Disappeared

August 31, 2010

Leslie Butterfield
ICT Blog
August 30, 2010

Today, August 30th marks the worldwide
commemoration of the International Day of the
Disappeared. The United Nations Working Group on
Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances  (WGEID)
has worked for 30 years to end the crime of
enforced disappearance and give voice to the
thousands of individuals who have seemingly vanished without a trace.

While the U.N. has issued an International
Convention for the Protection of all Persons from
Enforced Disappearances, it has not yet garnered
enough ratifying states to go into effect.
Conspicuously absent from the list of 83
signatories is the People’s Republic of China.

At the 14th session of the U.N. Human Rights
Council the WGEID delivered its latest report on
enforced disappearances, issuing "several urgent
communications to the Government of China in
particular in cases of alleged secret detention
of Tibetans accused of separatism and other state security offences..."

This report brought to light China’s failure to
provide its citizens with due process especially
in the cases of hundreds of Tibetans following
the wave of protests to sweep across the Tibetan
plateau starting in March 2008. Two official
reports on April 9, 2008, and June 21, 2008, (for
a full analysis of official figures see
"Officials Report Release of More Than 3,000 of
More Than 4,400 Detained Tibetan ‘Rioters,’ CECC,
available at www.cecc.gov) reported the release
of a total of 3,027 of the 4,434 people who had
reportedly “surrendered” or were detained. Based
on these reports, the status of more than 1,200
people who had surrendered or been detained was
unknown in early 2009. While some individual
sentences have trickled out to the public since
then, the number of Tibetans disappeared remains
high, however, given the restrictions on
information leaving Tibet, an exact count is impossible.

Of the Tibetans who disappeared following March
2008, many were not directly involved in the
protests. A new crackdown on Tibetan singers,
artists, and writers has led to the disappearance
of individuals daring to express their Tibetan
identity. ICT’s report Raging Storm provides our
most up-to-date list on the status of these Tibetans.

Another disappeared Tibetan to remember today is
Gedun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama
as the 11th Panchen Lama. Despite Chinese claims
that he is happily living with his family, the
whereabouts and wellbeing of Gedun Choekyi Nima
have been unverifiable since his 1995
disappearance. For many Tibetans, his
disappearance and the Chinese government’s
installation of another child as the “official”
Panchen Lama, have come to represent the crisis
facing the survival of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet.

With these Tibetans in mind, let us take a moment
today to reflect on those Tibetans who have
disappeared and hope that continued pressure from
U.N. bodies and foreign governments will shed new light on their cases.
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