THE United Nations has concluded that the Chinese Government has violated international human rights law by arbitrarily detaining 32 political prisoners in Tibet and has called for their release.
The finding has just been published by the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, an expert body which finished its quarterly session last week in Geneva, exactly one year after the decision was communicated to China.
Publication of the decision now emphasises the Working Group's dissatisfaction with China, which has failed to release the prisoners, to change its detention practices or to allow the Group to visit.
The detention of the 32 Tibetans is 'declared to be arbitrary' and is 'in contravention of Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights', according to the group's statement.
'The right of the persons concerned to freedom of opinion and expression has not been respected'.
The Chinese Government was asked to 'take the necessary steps to remedy the situation to bring it into conformity with the provisions and principles incorporated in the Universal Declaration' - which means that the prisoners should be released. It also means that they are entitled to compensation.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions is unique in that it has quasi-judicial powers.
This means that it can examine an allegation and decide if the Government involved has committed an abuse or not.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions gives governments 90 days to reply to an allegation.
The Group accepts further submissions before weighing both sides of the case and judging accordingly.
The finding could embarrass Beijing, which claims to respect basic human rights and has so far always evaded criticism by the UN Commission and other principal UN decision-making bodies.