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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Briefing notes on China and Russian Federation

20 December 2011

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 20 December 2011

(1) China
We are very disturbed by reports in China's state-run media about a Beijing court's decision to replace human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s extensive period of probation with a full three-year prison sentence. Just a few days before the five-year probation period expired, the Court decided that Gao must now serve his full suspended sentence for violating the probation rules, with no credit for the time he has already spent under the control of the authorities.

For the past 20 months, Gao has been subject to strict monitoring measures by the Public Security Bureau in what appears to be a form of house arrest in an unknown location. This case is illustrative of a trend of secret detention and disappearances of human rights defenders which the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN human rights bodies have already criticized on several occasions in recent years. The High Commissioner has raised the specific case of Gao, along with a number of others, with the Chinese authorities twice in the past seven months.

In relation to this case, one provision included under proposed amendments to China’s Criminal Law Procedure, which are currently being considered by the National People's Congress, raises further concerns, as it would permit the legalization of secret detention. OHCHR is of the view that this will represent a major setback, running counter to a number of important efforts made over the past decade by the Government of China towards the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

(2) Russian Federation
We are deeply concerned about the murder of Russian journalist Khadzhimurad Kamalov in Dagestan last week. The fatal shooting of this prominent journalist, who was the founder and editor of the independent weekly newspaper Chernovik, is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in Russia. Kamalov had reported extensively on alleged abuses by the police and other human rights violations in Dagestan and his murder sends a chilling message to journalists seeking to cover such issues.

We call on the Russian authorities to conduct a thorough, transparent and independent investigation into Kamalov's killing and to bring the perpetrators to justice promptly.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]) or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / [email protected]) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]).

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