Blog: Pre-session China
The UPR is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. Our goal: to make the worrisome situation of human rights lawyers part of the recommendations that will be made to China during the upcoming UPR in November.
The pre-session that we attended took place in Geneva, Switzerland, in the Palais des Nations of the United Nations. On Monday evening we departed from Schiphol to Geneva. Sixty copies of the Advocacy Charter of Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers’ Rights Canada were in our luggage. With the aim of bringing this Advocacy Charter to the (permanent) representatives of the member states of the United Nations.
The Advocacy Charter includes three of our points of concern, including the amended regulation on the issuing and annual renewal of licenses to individual lawyers and law firms. In short, the executive branch (the Chinese Ministry of Justice) has supervision over the issuing of these licenses. Human rights lawyers and offices where these lawyers are active are at risk of losing their license; authorities threaten to withdraw licenses or they are actually being withdrawn. According to our information, several human rights lawyers working on sensitive cases have lost their licenses the past year. The Chinese authorities also put pressure on the law firms where the lawyers concerned work by threating that the firm itself may not pass the annual review should the firm not discharge the lawyers concerned. This means that human rights lawyers not only run the risk to lose their license, but also their job and their income.
We also drew attention to the changed regulations in China that enable the government to impose the administrative law measure of ‘Residential Surveillance in Undesignated Locations’. Lawyers can be arrested without warning and held in locations that are unknown to family and the lawyer of the person in custody. They are detained without judicial review. Various lawyers have been missing since 2015 and are most likely in this form of detention.
The UPR pre-session began on October 9, 2018 at 12:00. During this session various representatives from national organizations spoke. Some of these national organizations also called attention to the situation of human rights lawyers. Our Advocay Charter was at the entrance and exit of this meeting room and was taken by a large number of representatives.
After the session we had the opportunity to speak to several permanent representatives.
After all these impressions and encounters, it was time for a spot on the terrace overlooking Lake Geneva and the Jet d ‘Eau, from where we write this report. At 21:00 we will fly back to Amsterdam. It was a very special and successful trip.
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