"Kundun," Martin Scorsese's beautiful feature film about the early life of the Dalai Lama of Tibet, is now playing at a theater near you. Meanwhile, another work on Tibet has also been released recently. It is the third report by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) titled: "Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law." The general public would surely applaud this latest ICJ publication if it knew more about the work of this august body.

Without the attention and skill of these international jurists, based in Geneva and led in this case by the Indian lawyer Purshottam Trikamdas, the full extent of the biological and cultural genocide inflicted upon the Tibetan people by Mao's armies would never have been documented, verified and brought to the attention of the United Nations.

On the night of March 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa under cover of night. On March 28, while still on Tibetan soil, he formally repudiated China's infamous "17 Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet," upon which consenting Tibetan seals had been forged in 1951. On March 31, exhausted and seriously ill, the Dalai Lama set foot on Indian soil. While this history is affectingly dramatized in Scorsese's film, this is where the film ends and the ICJ reports begin.

After the flight of the Dalai Lama, Mao crushed Tibet with a vengeance. Institutions of government and education were systematically destroyed; the Buddhist religion was labeled a "disease to be eradicated"; nearly 1.2 million out of about 6 million died through armed conflict and famine; large numbers of Tibetan children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to Chinese orphanages for "reeducation." Research suggests that close to 1 million Tibetans tried to escape to India, Nepal, Bhutan or other regions of their country, but given the vast distances, lack of food in mountainous terrain and military invasion, most either surrendered to the Chinese or died in flight. In the end, only 110,000 Tibetans survived the journey over the Himalayas to join the Dalai Lama in India. The testimony of many of these refugees was gathered by the ICJ and presented in its 1959 report "The question of Tibet and the Rule of Law."

This refugee stream continued well into 1960, which compelled the ICJ to issue a second report, titled "Tibet and the Chinese People's Republic." Both reports are filled with first-person accounts of atrocities, which began in Eastern and Northern Tibet in the early 1950s. The personal narratives are more powerful than any scholarly or artistic endeavor, as they describe a grimly familiar, 20th-century, state-sponsored genocide, justified by a new, scientific-materialist ideology of "reform" and "progress," swiftly and efficiently enacted with modern weaponry and just as swiftly and efficiently denied and concealed, despite the ICJ confirmation of genocide and of Tibet's de facto status as a sovereign state.

In recent years the Communist Chinese occupation of Tibet has, finally, become an issue of concern. For nearly four decades hardly anyone would come near it. Many accepted Chinese propaganda as fact. (As an undergraduate I was ridiculed by my Asian studies professors for suggesting that Tibet was not a "backward serfdom" that had been "peacefully liberated" by the kindly Chairman Mao.) Conversely, objective debate about Tibet is oftentimes hampered by what the distinguished Tibetan intellectual Jamyang Norbu calls the "Shangri-La Syndrome" -- i.e., a Western tendency to perceive all things Tibetan as inherently mystical and otherworldly, instead of seeing Tibet in all its human complexity.

The new ICJ report is free of either bias. Two years ago an American human rights lawyer, Reed Brody, persuaded the ICJ to reexamine the Tibet question in light of persecution that continues. The new 370-page report documents the 1995 incarceration of the Panchen Lama, an 8-year-old child; the 1997 extension of martial law under the "Spiritual Civilization Campaign," which labels Buddhism a "foreign culture" to be eradicated; intensive "reeducation" of the Buddhist clergy; population transfer; widespread torture and detention; extrajudicial and arbitrary executions. The report calls for a "referendum to be held in Tibet under United Nations supervision to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people."

The People's Republic of China has thus far refused to address the Tibet question with any credence. During his October 1997 visit to Washington, China's President Jiang Zemin straightfacedly told Congress that China "liberated" Tibet from "serfdom" and had the temerity to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated the American slaves.

Thanks to the efforts of Scorsese and Jean Jacques Annaud, director of "Seven Years in Tibet," millions more people will learn of Tibet's very existence. Americans who have been interviewed after seeing these films have asked, "How come we never knew about this before" and, "What can we do to help?" I recommend reading and supporting the ICJ reports. As ICJ Secretary General Jean-Flavien Lalive wrote in July of 1959: "The danger in such cases as that of Tibet is of a feeling of impotence and powerlessness overcoming people in the face of a fait accompli. . . . What happened in Tibet yesterday may happen in our own countries tomorrow . . . {but} ideas will penetrate where bullets will not." The writer is a consultant to Refugees International and has worked for many years with Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal.