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Hong Kong SAR: UN expert warns against admission of evidence, allegedly secured through torture, in Jimmy Lai case

31 January 2024

GENEVA (31 January 2024) – The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, has written to authorities in China, to address claims that the evidence of a listed key prosecution witness in the trial of newspaper owner and editor Jimmy Lai had been obtained through torture.

“I am deeply concerned that evidence that is expected to be presented against Jimmy Lai imminently, may have been obtained as a result of torture or other unlawful treatment”, said Alice Jill Edwards. “An investigation into these allegations must be conducted immediately, before any evidence is admitted into these present proceedings.”

Article 15 of the Convention against Torture – which China has ratified – notes that ‘any statement made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except in proceedings against an alleged torturer.’

It is alleged that a key prosecution witness was subjected to torture during his detention in the Shenzhen prison in mainland China in 2020-2021. The use of torture and other coercive techniques, including use of fixed restraint chairs (tiger chairs), to force confessions have been well-documented in mainland China, Edwards said.“The absolute prohibition of reliance on evidence obtained as a result of torture or other ill-treatment in any proceedings is a fundamental protection,” she said. “I have urged the Chinese government to undertake an investigation into these claims. I also reminded China of its duty to investigate all allegations of torture, prosecute or extradite suspects, punish those responsible and provide remedies to the victims.”
Jimmy Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, which was closed in 2021, has campaigned for decades for freedom of speech, press freedom and democratic space in Hong Kong SAR. He was arrested in August 2020 and charged with sedition and foreign collusion under the National Security Law. The charges relate to public statements he made about the negative impact of this legislation on fundamental rights and freedoms in the region.

If convicted, Jimmy Lai could face life in prison. On 22 January 2024, several UN experts including the Special Rapporteur on Torture called on the Hong Kong SAR authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Lai and release him immediately.

Jimmy Lai’s trial is the second under the controversial National Security Law. It follows the trial last year of 47 pro-democracy activists, who are still awaiting a verdict.

Dr. Alice Jill Edwards is the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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The Special Rapporteur on Torture is on Twitter: @DrAliceJEdwards.
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