Defending Tibetan Rights and Freedoms
After a long struggle against illness, our Tibetan friend Ngawang Choephel Drakmargyapon passed over here in Geneva. It is a great loss not only for Tibetans, but also for many peoples around the world, whose fate is neglected and sometimes ignored by the UN human rights bodies.
I had met Ngawang in the 80s, when he was the Human Rights Officer of the Geneva Tibet Bureau. He was a driving force in the campaign at the UN to raise awareness on the deteriorating situation of the Tibetans in China.
He largely contributed to the decision-making of the UN group of independent experts, the Sub-Commission, which adopted in 1991 its resolution on Tibet. He was not looking for a place on the podium, but he knew every development in the UN human rights system. Through his unflagging work, the NGOs coalitions and the Tibetan campaigns in many countries obtained initiatives from a dozen of Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups.
In the 90s, Ngawang was also instrumental in the innovative initiatives of The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), an NGO composed of many peoples who had no access in the UN bodies and meetings. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, some of these peoples obtained independence and became Member States in the UN. Ngawang chaired the UNPO and introduced in the human rights meetings many of these nations and peoples.
More recently, in 2011, I had the privilege of founding with Ngawang and other Asian human rights partners the Asian Alliance for Human Rights.
Despite his serious health condition, Ngawang never stopped. Until the last days, he continued to inform his networks on the trends in the UN human rights bodies and on the situation in China. We already miss him.
For GHR, the best tribute to Ngawang is to read again several articles he wrote for his partners:
International Campaign for Tibet, 15 June 2006, 30 pages
The article documents the major challenges that have faced Tibetans at the UN during the former UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and how Tibetans can effectively utilise the new Human Rights Council.
Drakmargyapon argues that after the experience with the CHR, it is now vital and timely for Tibetans to establish a solid internal network to outline strategies at the new Human Rights Council and to educate Tibetans about the UN human rights machinery and the developments at the Council. The article concludes: ‘To sum up, if we do not use the UN human rights forums effectively in the future then it is a missed strategy and of course, a lost opportunity. We cannot miss these opportunities for the sake of human rights victims in our homeland who desperately aspire for UN intervention but who do not have the freedom to come to the United Nations’.