Munich/Germany, Thursday, 15 December 2011
c/o Chinese Embassy in Canberra, Australia
H.E. Ambassador Mr. CHEN Yuming
15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
T: 0061 2 6273 4780
F: 0061 2 6273 5848
Re- China: Human rights defenders at risk as draft amendments to Criminal Procedure Law would effectively legalise enforced disappearances
An Urgent Appeal addressed to: President Hu Jintao Guojia Zhuxi, The State Council General Office,
2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017, People's Republic of China
Mr Hu Jia
Chinese citizen and Sakharov Prize Winner in the year 2008
Your Excellency, dear Ambassador,
Alarm bells begin to ring when intelligent people with a healthy reason hear about the proposed amendments to China's Criminal Procedure Law, which if passed, will effectively lead to the legalisation of enforced disappearances for up to six months of people held on suspicion of “endangering state security”, “serious bribery” or “terrorism”. Fact is that human rights defenders in China are often targeted under the country's vaguely defined state security laws.
Article 73 of the Draft Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China states that in cases involving the three above charges, suspects may be placed under residential surveillance for up to six months in a location other than their home, if being held in their home “may hinder the investigation”. The police are not obliged to specify the place of detention or notify the suspect's relatives or legal representative of the reasons for the residential surveillance in cases relating to the three charges if doing so “may interfere with the investigation”.
The draft amendments, which were made public on 30 August 2011, are currently under consideration and will be up for adoption by the National People's Congress in March 2012. During the public consultation period, a number of human rights defenders spoke out against the proposed amendments. In an open letter to the National People's Congress, 2008 Sakharov Prize Winner Mr Hu Jia, himself a victim of enforced disappearance, wrote that “this revision of the code of criminal procedure and the addition of truly KGB-like provisions will legalise illegal violations of citizen rights.” He also spoke of the trauma involved for the families of those disappeared: “My mother during the 41 days I was disappeared lost over ten kilograms and often cried, fearing that I had been murdered. The political police from start to finish never notified my family.”
2011 has seen a rise in the number of human rights defenders subjected to enforced disappearances in China. In the crackdown beginning in February of this year, over 20 human rights defenders were disappeared for periods ranging from a few days to three months. Some of those disappeared spoke afterwards of the physical and psychological abuse they suffered during this time. Should the draft amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law be adopted, such disappearances will effectively be legalised and will place human rights defenders at a much greater risk of torture and ill-treatment.
I urge the authorities in China
##- to amend all provisions of the Draft Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law not in compliance with international human rights norms including in particular, but not only, those related to fair trial rights and the right to freedom of liberty and security of person, with a view to bringing them into compliance with international fair trial guarantees. Article 73 of the Draft Amendments is of particular importance in this regard; ##- to take measures to ensure that the Criminal Procedure Law, both before and after any potential amendments are made, may not be used illegitimately to target human rights defenders; ##- to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in China are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all undue restrictions, including enforced disappearance.
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Wilhelm H. Ludwig
Member of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR)Member of the Society for Threatened Peoples – www.gfbv.de (German website)