Chushul Prison is located 48 kilometres southwest of Lhasa and despite being a relatively new facility it has already gained an infamous reputation.
All too often Tibetans are detained arbitrarily while their families remain in the dark about their whereabouts. Free Tibet has highlighted a number of cases of Tibetans who have died after being released from the institution following years of poor conditions and torture.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has said of Chushul: “incarceration means brutal mistreatment and torture of political prisoners”. Jigme Gyatso, who served many years in a number of Chinese prisons, described Chushul as even worse than Drapchi, a prison that has a reputation for treating political prisoners harshly.
Jigme Gyatso, 52, was freed in 2013 after serving 17 years in prison and according to Radio Free Asia, he appeared “very weak” upon release. A fellow inmate of his commented, after fleeing to India, that during their time together he was often sick and confined to his cell.
Such testimonies support the comments made by Dr Manfred Nowak, a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. After visiting Chushul in 2006 he expressed concerns about the lack of recreational facilities for long term prisoners and how some prisoners were only “allowed outside of their cells for 20 minutes per day”. In addition, he noted complaints about “the food, the extreme temperatures experienced in the cells during the summer and winter months and a general feeling of weakness due to lack of exercise”.
Deaths in detention
Tenzin Choedak died on 5 December 2014, at the age of 33, after six years of torture in Chushul prison. He was released just days before his death. In prison, Tenzin Choedak lost his vision and suffered chronic diseases, as a result of torture, which damaged his brain and he would often vomit blood. He became emaciated, incontinent and unable to recognise family members.
Lobsang Yeshe, a village leader in his 60s, died while serving a two-year sentence in Chushul where he “sustained grievous injuries” from “severe beating” according to the Tibet Post.
Given the torture and mistreatment that occurs in Chushul, Free Tibet continues to raise concerns about political prisoners who have been or who have thought to have been incarcerated there.