Tibet rights groups urge Nepal to hand over 23 Tibetans to UNHCR

A file photo shows a Tibetan woman being dragged away by Nepalese police after throwing herself in front of a bus of carrying Tibetan deportees to the border with Chinese-occupied Tibet, in Kathmandu,


DHARAMSHALA September 21: Exile rights groups -- International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and Students for Free Tibet (SFT) -- have urged the Nepal government to release 23 Tibetans detained earlier for “illegally crossing” into the country. 

Nepalese police arrested 20 Tibetans on September 11 from Bajura district, western Nepal and 3 Tibetans on September 13 from Barabise, Sindupalchowk district, north-central Nepal. However, Nepal delayed their release to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under pressure from China, according to sources.

"The group of Tibetans has not been turned over by Nepalese authorities to the UN refugee agency, as per established protocols," said the rights groups.

The rights groups also allege that the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu has written to Nepal government demanding that the Tibetans be released into Chinese custody for return to Tibet.

"The Chinese embassy’s menacing interference into the case of these 23 Tibetans represents an escalation in China’s attempts to undermine existing protocols for the protection of Tibetan refugees in Nepal," said ICT president, Mary Beth Markey. 

The Tibetan Youth Congress expressed fear that the 23 refugees of which 20 are juveniles might be turned into Chinese hands any day.

Under the established ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ between the Nepal government and the UNHCR, Tibetans who enter Nepalese territory from Tibet are to be given over to the care of the UNHCR and expeditiously allowed to travel onward to India. 

Students for free Tibet (SFT) has written to the prime minister of Nepal, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, urging his country to respect the U.N. Torture Convention, which bans to the forcible return of a refugee to a country where there is a credible fear that torture could be employed.

"These Tibetans are trying to escape from the Chinese torture in Tibet, so if they are returned back to Tibet, then the Nepal government is violating the UN Torture Convention," said Tenzin Jigdal. 

Nepal violated the "Gentlemen's Agreement" with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and contravened its obligations under international law by forcibly returning three Tibetan refugees to Chinese border police in June 2010. It was the first confirmed case of the refoulement of Tibetan refugees from Nepal since May 2003. 

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