IBAHRI urges China to uphold lawyers’ rights and implement UN recommendations to eradicate torture

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Lawyers in China continue to face improper interference in their professional work and serious violations of their rights according to the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) which has called on the country to implement the latest recommendations made by theUnited Nations Committee Against Torture (UN Committee) and to respect in full the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

On 9 December, the UN Committee published its concluding observations on the fifth periodic report received from China. To safeguard lawyers’ rights, the UN Committee recommended that China:

1. stop sanctioning lawyers for actions taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, which should be possible without fear of prosecution;

2. ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of all the human rights violations perpetrated against lawyers, and ensure that those responsible are tried and punished in accordance with the gravity of their acts; and

3. adopt the necessary measures without delay, to ensure the development of a fully independent and self-regulating legal profession, enabling lawyers to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, harassment or improper interference.

IBAHRI co-chair ambassador (ret) Hans Corell said: “Lawyers play a pivotal role in the eradication of torture. It is therefore alarming that the UN Committee finds that lawyers in China may be deterred from raising reports of torture, for fear of legal sanction.”

Ambassador (ret) Corell added: “While the IBAHRI recognises that China’s engagement with the UN monitoring process is a positive step, China must address all remaining legal and practical obstacles to preventing unlawful treatment in places of detention, and this includes ensuring that the legal profession can practise freely without interference.”

IBAHRI co-chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC added: “The unprecedented number of lawyers targeted while attempting to promote human rights in China is a blight on the country’s international reputation.

“That lawyers face torture is wholly unacceptable. At a time when prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is on trial for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ and Yu Wensheng, a vociferous critic of the government crackdown on human rights activists, is alleging torture while in police custody, the IBAHRI urges the authorities in China to investigate immediately all complaints of torture and heed the UN Committee’s recommendations.”