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Karma Samdrup's Trial Tests China's New Regulations To Halt Torture

June 25, 2010

Central Tibetan Adminstration (CTA)
June 24, 2010

Dharamshala -- Karma Samdrup, a prominent Tibetan
environmental philanthropist's complaint against
police officials for repeatedly torturing him to
extract confession for an offense that he
vehemently denied of committing, is a test case
for China's new regulations on halting evidence
obtained illegally through torture, a US-based rights group said.

Karma Samdrup was arrested from his home in
Sichuan Province in January on alleged charges of
buying artifacts from a looted tomb in 1998.
According to his lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, those
charges were dropped after the police realised
that he had a license to buy and sell cultural relics.

His arrest came following his attempts to defend
his two younger brothers, Rinchen Samdrup and
Chime Namgyal, who are in jail since August 2009
for accusing a police official in Chamdo
Prefecture of illegal poaching. "By jumping to
his brothers’ defense, Karma Samdrup apparently
angered some powerful people," The New York Times reported.

Relatives say Namgyal was tortured and then
sentenced to 21 months at a labour camp for
"harming national security." Rinchen Samdrup, who
has also been lauded by the Chinese media in the
past, is still awaiting trial on several charges,
including having set up the environmental group illegally.

Karma Samdrup’s brothers Rinchen Samdrup, top,
and Chime Namgyal were jailed after accusing a
police chief of hunting protected animals.

During his ongoing trial in Xinjiang Uighur
Autonomous Region on 22 June, Karma Samdrup said
that during several months of interrogation,
officers repeatedly beat him, ordered fellow
detainees to beat him, deprived him of sleep for
days on end, and drugged him with a substance
that made his eyes and ears bleed - all to
extract a confession, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

He has nonetheless refused to sign a
self-incriminating statement and has entered a
plea of not guilty. "Karma Samdrup's trial was a
test case for the government's commitment to
halting torture of criminal suspects in custody
to prevent miscarriages of justice," the rights group said.

According to the new regulation issued jointly by
China's Supreme People's Court, Supreme People's
Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security,
Ministry of State Security and Ministry of
Justice on 30 May, "confessions or testimony
obtained through torture, violence and
intimidation are invalid". The rules give
"defendants the ability to challenge confessions
presented during their trials".

"The rules were unlikely to make a difference
unless they were accompanied by significant
reforms such as granting the right to silence to
protect suspects from self-incrimination,
effective remedies in instances of violations of
the right of the defense, and prosecution of law
enforcement agents guilty of having tortured criminal suspects," HRW said.

"Karma Samdrup's trial is an important test case
for the Chinese government's stance towards
torture," said Sophie Richardson, HRW's Asia
advocacy director. "If the government doesn't
investigate torture allegations in a manifestly
trumped-up case, what hope can ordinary defendants have?"

The detention, arrest and torture of the three
Tibetan environmentalists on false charges
violate articles 9 and 41 of the Chinese
Constitution, according to Mr Tenzin Norbu, the
executive head of the Environment and Development
Desk of the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamsala.

The Article 9 stipulates that "...the state
ensures use of natural resources and protects
rare animals and plants. Appropriation or
damaging of natural resources by any organisation
or individual by whatever means is prohibited.

In the Article 41, it states, "Citizens have the
right to criticise and make suggestions to any
state organ or functionary. Citizens have the
right to make to relevant state organs complaints
and charges against, or exposures of, violation
of the law or dereliction of duty by any state
organ or functionary; but fabrication or
distortion of facts with the intention of libel
or frame-up is prohibited. In case of complaints,
charges or exposures made by citizens, the state
organ concerned must deal with them in a
responsible manner after ascertaining the facts.
No one may suppress such complaints, charges and
exposures, or retaliate against the citizens
making them. Citizens who have suffered losses,
through infringement of their civil rights by any
state organ or functionary have the right to compensation."
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