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Accountability for Uyghurs: UN report and Uyghur Tribunal point out urgent need for action

Accountability for Uyghurs: UN report and Uyghur Tribunal point out urgent need for action

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Sir Geoffrey Nice QC,
Uyghur Tribunal Chair, former Chief Prosecutor of Slobodan Milosovic during the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Nick Vetch
Uyghur Tribunal Vice-Chair

Sarah Brooks
Program Director, International Service for Human Rights

John Fischer
Deputy Director, Global Advocacy, Human Rights Watch

Dolkun Isa
President, World Uyghur Congress

Gulbahar Hatiwaji
Former Uyghur detainee

The government of China is perpetrating mass human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region) in western China. Millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples are held in mass arbitrary detention, forced to work in factories in the Uyghur Region and across China to produce goods sold all over the world, and are subjected to forced sterilization, abortions, repressive surveillance and family separation, among other human rights abuses.

In June 2020, the Uyghur Tribunal was established as an independent expert people’s tribunal to investigate evidence of atrocities and allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide. The need for an independent expert tribunal arises due to the major barriers associated with holding the Chinese government accountable before any formal international court – China does not, for example, recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Over the course of 18 months and 3 in-person hearings, the Uyghur Tribunal’s team chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC considered all the available evidence and witness testimonies, and drew the reasoned conclusion that the Chinese government’s actions constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.

The human rights crisis in the Uyghur Region has also prompted a response from UN bodies and experts. In May 2022, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, conducted a long-anticipated visit to the Uyghur Region. Whereas this should have been an independent investigation into the human rights situation, the visit has been widely criticised for failing to meet key preconditions. Following the visit, 42 UN experts reiterated deep concerns about the human rights situation in the region, noting that the High Commissioner’s engagement “does not replace the urgent need for a complete assessment of the human rights situation”. On August 31st, the much anticipated UN report was published with strong recommendations to the international community.

Based on the evidence collected by both the Uyghur Tribunal and the OHCHR, the global community can no longer close an eye on the atrocities in the region.

The Tribunal’s Judgment – published with 34 appendices this month –  along with the UN report should therefore be duly considered by all actors, including states, civil society actors and media.

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