Monk “confessing” to inciting self-immolations is likely victim of torture, says Free Tibet

Monday, 10 December 2012

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua is reporting that a monk alleged to have “goaded” eight people to set themselves alight in Tibet has confessed to acting on the instructions of the Dalai Lama (1). Confessions in Tibet are frequently obtained through torture, which the UN has reported is “widespread” and “routine” (2). Available independent evidence indicates that self-immolations are mostly solitary acts which usually come as a surprise to those who know the individual involved. The Dalai Lama has never expressed support for the protests and the Tibetan government in exile has called for them to end. China’s policy is to blame resistance to its occupation of Tibet on “the Dalai clique”, and to reject any suggestion its own policies lie behind the self-immolations (3). Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden says: “China’s desperate urge to deflect attention from its own responsibility for the intense protests against its rule has created a further layer of risk for Tibetans. The rule of law is already a fiction in Tibet: now it seems that they are willing to use confessions probably obtained by torture to justify murder charges against anyone connected to a self-immolator, however tenuously. Tibetans choose to self-immolate because they exist under brutal military occupation and are denied their basic rights. Unless China recognises its full and sole responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Tibet, the latest developments could signal the start of a spiralling cycle of even greater repression and protest.” The monk, Lobsang Konchok, has been detained in relation to eight unspecified protests, of which Xinhua reports three were fatal (3). Last week China announced that it intends to press murder charges against anyone who aids or incites self-immolations (4). Last year, three individuals were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for involvement in the self-immolation of a monk at Kirti Monastery in 2011, and one is serving a six year sentence for sending information about the first such protest in 2009 (5). A murder conviction could carry the death penalty. Criminal conviction in China may be made on the basis of confession alone, a situation which fosters the use of torture. Evidence obtained by confession is technically inadmissible in China but in practice this provision is unenforced. Ends Notes for editors (1) The detainee, Lobsang Konchok, 40 (Ch: Lorang Konchok) is a monk from the Kirti monastery in Ngaba which was the location of the first self-immolation protest in Feb 2009. The report states that the monk disseminated information to supporters of the Dalai Lama in India regarding self-immolations in the monastery and local area from 2009 on and that he confessed to encouraging and inciting others to undertake the protests. Xinhua report, 9 Dec 2012 (2) Committee Against Torture, Dec 2008 (3) Full list of Tibetan self-immolators (4) Lobsang Konchok’s detention has been confirmed by independent monitoring group, Tibet Watch. Three other monks were detained at the same time. Two were subsequently released following interrogation but the media reports that Lobsang Kochok’s (Ch: Lorang Konchok) 31-year-old nephew, (Ch: Lorang Tsering), is also in detention for assisting his uncle. (5) South China Morning Post, 5 December 2012 (6) Tibet Watch information For further information and to arrange an interview with Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Director Stephanie Brigden, contact Alistair Currie: E: T: +44 207 324 4619