The below article was published by Forbes, photo credit: AFP via Getty Images
In June 2021, lawyers for the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM), have submitted further evidence to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking for an investigation to be opened against senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity allegedly committed against the Uyghur and other communities. This comes after on December 14, 2020, the OTP to the ICC confirmed that it could not take further the case of the Uyghurs. In its report, OTP stated that there was no basis to proceed at this time.
As China is not a party to the Rome Statute, and hence, the ICC does not have the territorial jurisdiction over the crimes allegedly perpetrated there, the communication advances the argument, earlier used in the case of Myanmar/Bangladesh, that part of the criminal conduct occurred within the territory of a state party to the Rome Statute.
The new information submitted to the ICC includes evidence suggesting that “Uyghurs have been targeted, rounded up, deported and disappeared from Tajikistan back into Xinjiang by Chinese operatives.” As the lawyers argue, this evidence is to show that Chinese authorities “have directly intervened” in Tajikistan. Reportedly, the gathered evidence is further to show that the last 10-15 years have seen the number of Uyghurs in Tajikistan reducing from an estimated 3,000 to approximately 100. The largest decrease was to occur between 2016 and 2018.
The U.K. Government, when asked about the issue responded that “The U.K. continues to take a global leadership role in standing up for the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. We have repeatedly called on countries to respect their obligations not to force persons to return to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of fundamental rights violations.” British diplomats were to intervene privately at senior levels with host governments on behalf of Uyghurs who have been at risk of refoulement to China.
While the evidence submitted to the ICC concerns the situations in Tajikistan and Cambodia, news of similar treatment of the Uyghurs elsewhere continue to emerge. Indeed, end of July 2021, media outlets reported that Moroccan authorities have arrested Idris Hasan, a Uyghur activist in exile, because of a Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol. Reportedly, he is to be forcibly returned to China where he will likely face arbitrary detention and torture. This risk of mistreatment is supported by in-depth research of several organizations warning about the dire treatment of the Uyghurs in China. According to them, Uyghurs are subjected to killings, mass incarceration in camps, torture and abuse, rape and sexual violence, separation of children from their parents, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, forced labor and much more. The Chinese government denies these atrocities.
It is yet unclear whether the ICC will recognize its jurisdiction in the case. However, as the evidence and concerning news are mounting, it becomes clear that the issue requires an urgent investigation and assessment.