Death in Lhasa

PRAGUE – On April 8, two Tibetans, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak, were sentenced to death by the Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in Lhasa. Both men were convicted of committing arson that caused death against Chinese owned businesses.  Another two Tibetan activists, Tenzin Phuntsok and Kangtsuk, received a suspended death sentence, and a third, Dawa Sangpo was sentenced by the same court to life imprisonment.

These latest verdicts are the first death sentences meted out by Chinese courts to those who took part in protests that swept Lhasa and other Tibetan cities in the spring of 2008. Since these trials took place in complete isolation from the rest of the world, with no impartial observers or foreign journalists present, it is to be doubted, strongly, that the defendants received anything remotely like a fair trial in accordance with international judicial standards.

We therefore appeal to the authorities of the People’s Republic of China to rescind the decision to execute these protesters, and to provide them with an opportunity to be re-tried in a judicial process that is more in keeping with the international standards that China says that it adheres to. And the first standard that must be met is that the trial, first of all, must be verifiable and open to international observation.

But beyond the grim fates of the Tibetans that have now been sentenced by the Tibetan court to death or life imprisonment for the protests that took place a year ago, we are also concerned about the hundreds of other detained protesters who have yet to be tried by the Municipal Court in Lhasa. Indeed, it is our belief that the recent death sentences could mark the onset of an avalanche of highly doubtful Court rulings in Tibet, which could lead to a worrying number of executions in that tense and troubled region.