China: Ensure independent investigation into death of Cao Shunli


China must ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the death of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli. Failing this, the Council must act, a coalition of human rights NGOs said today.


(Geneva) - China must ensure a full, independent and impartial investigation into the death of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, a coalition of leading human rights organisations has said in a statement to the Human Rights Council.

If Chinese authorities are unable or unwilling to conduct such an investigation in accordance with international standards, the Human Rights Council as the world’s top human rights body must take appropriate action, the statement said. It was delivered by the International Service for Human Rights and supported by Human Rights Watch, CIHRS, CIVICUS, Conectas, EHARDP, Article 19HRHF and ALRC.

‘One year after her tragic death, there has been no adequate investigation or accountability in relation to the death of Chinese defender Cao Shunli,’ said Michael Ineichen, Head of Human Rights Council Advocacy at ISHR. ‘If China is let of the hook for such a blatant case of reprisals against someone wanting to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms, the Council sends a message to rights abusers that activists can be attacked with impunity,’ Mr Ineichen said.

The statement highlighted the negative effect of impunity for cases of intimidation and reprisals, as shown by the numerous reported cases of intimidation and reprisals occurring during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, including against South Sudanese and Bahraini defenders.

The legal and moral obligations of States to protect those who cooperate with the UN are clear, and if a State fails to conduct stop reprisals or to properly investigate allegations, the UN has a responsibility to act, the statement said.

‘We welcome recent advances on the institutional level, such as the treaty body policies that recognise States’ primary duty to ensure accountability in the case of reprisals, and the UN’s own duty of care,’ said Eleanor Openshaw, Head of Reprisals Advocacy at ISHR.

‘However, in the absence of a more systematic approach, such as through a dedicated focal point on reprisals which could coordinate investigation of and follow-up to individual cases, these steps will remain the proverbial drop in the ocean,’ Ms Openshaw concluded.

The statement is available as a PDF and video.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Human Rights Council Advocacy Director, on or + 41 78 827 77 86.


  • Asia
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Bahrain
  • China
  • South Sudan