Uyghurs call for global action, citing UN report on atrocities

The Uyghurs from 20 countries urged UNHRC to take up the issue in a Special Session or Urgent Debate with the aim of establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to independently examine the treatment of Uyghurs …reports Asian Lite News

A group of 60 Uyghur organizations from 20 countries are calling for an immediate response to put an end to atrocities against Uyghurs, following the release of a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today. Uyghurs are calling for seven concrete actions by governments, multilateral bodies, and corporations.

“This UN report is extremely important. It paves the way for meaningful and tangible action by member states, UN bodies, and the business community,” said World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa. “Accountability starts now.”

“This is a game-changer for the international response to the Uyghur crisis,” said Uyghur Human Rights Project Executive Director Omer Kanat. “Despite the Chinese government’s strenuous denials, the UN has now officially recognized that horrific crimes are occurring.”

The report offers the most definitive assessment of the issues faced by Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples from the world’s leading human rights body. Most notably, it finds that “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, within the context of other restrictions, “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

The report also notes that the human rights abuses have included “far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international norms and standards,” and that documentation of “patterns of torture or ill-treatment” is credible, including “incidents of sexual […] violence.”

On the crime of state-imposed forced labour, the report affirms the “deep concerns” of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), stating that the “OHCHR shares, from the human rights perspective, the concerns laid out by the ILO supervisory bodies.”

The report recommends for the Chinese government to take steps to release those arbitrarily detained; clarify the whereabouts of detained family members; cease intimidation and reprisals against Uyghurs in connection with their advocacy; to cooperate with the ILO Committee of Experts recommendations; and provide “adequate remedy and reparation to victims” of human rights abuses.

The report recommends that governments should “refrain from returning [Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples] to China” and “provide humanitarian assistance, including medical and psycho-social support, to victims in the States in which they are located.”

The report also makes recommendations to the business community to strengthen human rights risk assessments in the surveillance and security sector in particular, and for companies to respect human rights across activities and business relationships.


What are the demands?

  • The UN Human Rights Council to take up the issue in a Special Session or Urgent Debate with the aim of establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to independently examine the treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples;
  •  The UN Special Procedures to consider evidence presented in the report and respond with recommendations for the UN and the international community;
  •  The UN Office on Genocide Prevention to immediately conduct an assessment of the risks of atrocities—including genocide and crimes against humanity—targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, and to alert relevant actors and advocate for a proportionate response;
  •  The ILO to take note of the report, include additional evidence of forced labour in its Committee of Experts annual report, and for delegates at the International Labour Conference to lodge a complaint against China for failure to uphold its obligations;
  •  UNESCO to urgently investigate cases of destruction or marginalisation of natural and cultural heritage, including UNESCO-listed heritage (Muqam, Karez well system, Manas, Meshrep, and the Tianshan mountain range);
  • The global business community to immediately cut all ties with entities assisting the government to carry out the atrocities, especially the programs of high-tech surveillance and state-imposed forced labour; and
  • Governments and international organizations to take urgent steps to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples at imminent risk of refoulement, in line with a recent joint statement from 22 refugee and human rights groups and 50 Uyghur organizations.

“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has waited far too long to deliver its report. The truth of China’s atrocities has once again been documented, and there can be no shying away from the obligation to act. Stopping genocide was a foundational purpose of the UN, and it must be upheld now,” said Campaign for Uyghurs Executive Director Rushan Abbas.

‘’Now that the leading UN office on human rights has spoken, there are no more excuses for failure to hold the Chinese government accountable,” said Elfidar Iltebir, Uyghur American Association President.

“Our people are enduring genocide that has been documented through research, exposed by the Uyghur Tribunal, and designated by parliaments,” said Hidayet Oghuzhan, President of the International Union of East Turkistan Organizations. “As the diaspora community, we call on international human rights organizations and governments to take immediate action to stop the ongoing genocide.”

In September 2021, OHCHR confirmed it was “finalizing its assessment” and in December a spokesperson announced that the report would be released in a matter of weeks. In an open letter in March 2022, over 200 human rights groups urged the High Commissioner to promptly release her Office’s report following the long delay.

The report comes after the visit of the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to East Turkistan in May 2022, amidst criticism from governments, international organisations, and Uyghur groups that the trip amounted to little more than a propaganda victory for the Chinese government.

Since China’s review by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 2018, where members registered “alarm” at reports of mass detention, UN experts have indicated deep concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in China—and the Uyghur region in particular.

UN experts have issued 83 communications and 27 press releases to China since 2018, but noted they “have yet to see any signs of political will to address the concerns raised.” The Chinese government has not replied to 19 pending visit requests and rejected all Universal Periodic Review recommendations to provide unhindered access to experts.

In June 2020, 50 UN experts called for “decisive measures” to protect fundamental freedoms in China, including the creation of a UN mechanism to “closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China.” On June 10, 2022, this call was reiterated by 42 UN experts, noting a lack of political will to address the concerns raised.

A growing number of governments have also expressed alarm about the human rights situation in China—notably the atrocities perpetrated against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples. The U.S. State Department determined in January 2021 that this treatment amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, and parliaments in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and the European Parliament have all passed motions or resolutions condemning the atrocity crimes.

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