The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [official website] called on the Chinese government Monday to free detained human rights lawyer [statement, PDF] Gao Zhisheng [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], whom they claim is being held in violation of international law. Gao was abducted and detained in February 2009 and has been held in detention ever since. The statement alleges that Gao was not formally charged with an offense and therefore his detention has no legal basis. Furthermore, the statement alleges that Gao's family is unaware of his whereabouts, he has been denied access to a lawyer and a fair trial, and he has possibly been subjected to torture. The UN group stated that these actions are in violation of articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], which China has signed but not ratified. The group also submitted that Gao's detention violates articles of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and its Criminal Procedural Law [text].
In March 2010, an international group of human rights lawyers petitioned the UN group [JURIST report] to condemn Gao's detention. Two weeks later, Gao spoke to a reporter [JURIST report] and verified that he was alive and living in China's Shanxi province after being missing for more than a year. Gao stated that he was released from detention, but another Chinese human rights lawyer stated that Gao still appeared to be under some form of restraint in his interview. In January 2010, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman indicated that Gao was "where he should be" [JURIST report] and that keeping him in custody comported with the law. Gao drew international attention in September 2007 when he wrote a letter [JURIST report] to the US Congress requesting assistance in improving human rights in China. Gao, who has also defended Christians and coal miners in China, claimed that he was tortured after his arrest in 2007. Gao was originally part of the Chinese Communist Party and handled prominent cases involving the outlawed Falun Gong movement [Falun Dafa website], but fell into disfavor with the government in 2006 when he was convicted of subversion [JURIST report] and placed under house arrest. China has long received criticism [JURIST news archive] from watchdog groups for its treatment of rights activists such as Gao.