Press briefing notes on China and Syria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 2 November 2012

(1) China

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has just issued a statement urging the Chinese authorities to promptly address the longstanding grievances that have led to an alarming escalation in desperate forms of protest, including self-immolations, in Tibetan areas.

The High Commissioner notes the continuing allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion, and is pointing to reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs on the cultural rights of Tibetans. She is also calling for the release of all individuals detained for merely exercising the rights to peaceful assembly and expression – which are universal rights.

She is also appealing to Tibetans to refrain from resorting to extreme forms of protest, such as self-immolation, and urging community and religious leaders to use their influence to help stop this tragic loss of life

The full statement is available here:

In a separate positive development, OHCHR welcomes the announcement last week of the passage of China’s first mental health law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. This is an important sign of progress in China's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was recently reviewed by the UN Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We have only just received the Chinese text of the law and we have not yet managed to analyse it in detail but we understand that it addresses some key areas of concern. For example, it provides that individuals with psychiatric conditions who are deemed unlikely to cause harm to themselves or others should not be held in psychiatric institutions against their will. The law should provide an important framework for civil society in China to monitor and advocate on mental health care issues, and for persons suffering such disabilities to better claim their rights and entitlements. We look forward to studying the law more fully in light of the relevant international standards.

(2) Syria

In response to a question on a video apparently showing executions in Syria:

Like other videos of this sort, it is difficult to verify immediately. We need to examine this carefully. It will be examined carefully. The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants and therefore, at this point, it looks very like a war crime. Another one. Unfortunately this could be the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by Government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the Shabbiha.

Once again, we call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The people committing these crimes should be under no illusion that they will escape accountability, because there is a lot of accumulated evidence, perhaps including this video.


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 /

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