Submission to UN on Yuan Xianchen – August 31, 2009

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Communiqué to UN Human Rights Special Procedures from Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Alleging Torture and Cruel, Degrading, and Inhumane Treatment of Human Rights Defender Yuan Xianchen, citizen of People’s Republic of China

To:Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

 

The Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders

 

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

 

I. Identity of the person(s) subjected to torture

A. Family Name: Yuan (袁)
B. First and other names: Xianchen (显臣)
C. Sex: Male
D. Birth date or age: February 2, 1964
E. Nationality: Chinese
F. Occupation: Human rights activist and “barefoot lawyer”
G. Identity card number (if applicable): Not known
F. Activities (trade union, political, religious, humanitarian/ solidarity, press, etc.): Yuan is a human rights activist and a “barefoot lawyer”. He self-studied law and obtained a “legal worker” (法律工作者) license from the judicial authorities in 1995. Since then he had provided legal advice to individuals who suffer rights violations. He is best known for his work as a legal advisor to workers at the Didao Mine in Jixi City, Heilongjiang Province. The miners have been seeking compensation from the local government and the mine management since the former state-owned business was re-structured and became a private enterprise.

 

II. Circumstances surrounding torture

A. Date and place of arrest and subsequent torture

Yuan was initially apprehended on May 24, 2008 in Beijing, officially detained on May 29 and formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” on June 30. Yuan was first detained in Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau Detention Centre and later transferred to the Jixi City Detention Center in Heilongjiang Province.

Torture occurred primarily between May 24, 2008, and his trial in Jixi, Heilongjiang, on 12 January, 2009. According to Yuan’s lawyers, the beatings were more frequent in Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau Detention Centre and they lessened after his transfer to the Jixi City Detention Center.

B. Identity of force(s) carrying out the initial detention and/or torture (police, intelligence services, armed forces, paramilitary, prison officials, other)

Primarily carried out by guards at the Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau Detention Centre. and those at the Jixi City Detention Center in Heilongjiang Province.

C. Were any person, such as a lawyer, relatives or friends, permitted to see the victim during detention? If so, how long after the arrest?

The victim’s family have been barred from visiting him. The first and only time they were able to see him was during his trial on 12 January, 2009. Yuan’s family has also sent him letters, but they do not know if the letters have been delivered as they have not received any letter in response.

Yuan’s lawyers were first allowed to visit him in the end of August 2008, about two months after Yuan was first taken into detention. The lawyers visited him last on either May 27 or 28, 2009.

D. Describe the methods of torture used

The main method of torture was repeated beatings. For example, he was hit on the head by a guard using a pair of handcuffs.

E. What injuries were sustained as a result of the torture?

Being struck with handcuffs resulted in 10 bald patches and visible scars on his head. However, because Yuan’s family has been barred from visiting him, and that his lawyers have had limited access to the activist, it’s unclear exactly the kind of injuries that were sustained as a result of torture. However, there is evidence that his injuries were quite serious. On February 9, 2009, Yuan’s wife received a phone call from a prison doctor, Mr. Wang, telling her that Yuan was seriously ill and that she should send money to Yuan for treatment immediately. After Yuan’s wife hurried to the detention center and sent the money, she was not allowed in to visit Yuan. The guards did not inform her the kind of illness Yuan suffered from, but said only that his head was in pain, and that he had been given injections and transfusions. Yuan’s wife suspected that his headaches were the result of repeated beatings.

Yuan’s lawyers visited him last on either May 27 or 28, 2009. They did not discuss with Yuan his treatment in Jixi Detention Center. The lawyers said Yuan looked fine but still suffered from headaches.

F. What was believed to be the purpose of the torture?
The purpose is believed to have been, at least in part, to extract information for use in the trial. Yuan is also believed to be tortured for having been particularly vocal in criticizing human rights violations by local authorities.

G. Was the victim examined by a doctor at any point during or after his/her ordeal? If so, when? Was the examination performed by a prison or government doctor?

It is believed that Yuan was not examined by a doctor until months later. On February 9, 2009, Yuan’s wife received a phone call from a prison doctor, Mr. Wang, telling her that Yuan is seriously ill and that she should send money to Yuan for treatment immediately. After Yuan’s wife hurried to the detention center and sent the money, she was not allowed in to visit Yuan. The guards did not inform her the kind of illness Yuan suffered from. Yuan’s wife was also not given the chance to speak with the prison doctor.

H. Was appropriate treatment received for injuries sustained as a result of the torture?

No. Yuan was not examined by a prison doctor until February 9, 2009, months after he was repeatedly tortured. Since Yuan’s wife was not given the chance to speak with this prison doctor, it is unclear the kind of treatment Yuan received.

I. Was the medical examination performed in a manner which would enable the doctor to detect evidence of injuries sustained as a result of the torture? Were any medical reports or certificates issued? If so, what did the reports reveal?

No. Yuan was not examined by a doctor until February 9, 2009, months after he was repeatedly tortured. It is unclear if the doctor actually examined Yuan’s injuries. Yuan’s family and lawyers have not been given a chance to meet with the doctor, so it is impossible for them to know if 1) the doctor examined Yuan’s injuries and that 2) if the injuries were determined to be the result of torture.

 

III. Remedial action

Were any domestic remedies pursued by the victim or his/her family or representatives (complaints with the forces responsible, the judiciary, political organs, etc.)? If so, what was the result?

Yuan complained at court that he was tortured to extract confession, but the judges paid no attention to his claim.

Yuan has appealed against the verdict of his trial on March 13 but the court has not yet responded to his appeal application five months after he filed it. Meanwhile, Yuan continues to languish in Jixi City Detention Center where he is at risk of further torture.

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