Exiled Uighurs bring first-ever ICC claim against China

Exiled Uighurs bring first-ever ICC claim against China
The evidence submitted includes torture, being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, and birth control for Uyghur women.
2 min read
07 July, 2020
The claims were submitted by the East Turkistan Government in Exile group. [Getty]

Two exiled Uighur activist groups have joined forces to submit evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Chinese leaders of genocide and crimes against humanity, in the first ever attempt to use international law instruments against Beijing.

The claims were submitted by UK-based lawyers and the East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, outlining how Uighurs were forcibly deported from their homes in Tajikistan and Cambodia to the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

"Upon return to China they [Uighurs] have been subjected to crimes together with many other detained Uyghurs including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced birth control and sterilization, and forced marriages," the East Turkistan Government in Exile claims said in a statement.

It demanded an investigation into the culpability of Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. 

The evidence submitted includes "descriptions of brutal torture through electrocution, humiliation in the form of being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, mandatory insertion of IUD birth control for Uyghur women of child-bearing age", the group claims. 

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As China is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the ICC does not normally have jurisdiction over cases brought against Beijing.

However, due to a successful case from 2018 regarding crimes committed by Myanmar officials against the Rohingya Muslim group in Bangladesh - a signatory state - the lawyers representing the Uighur groups argue that the case should stand as the crimes took place Cambodia and Tajikistan, both of which signed up to the statute.

"For too long it was assumed that nothing could be done by the world's criminal court," said Rodney Dixon QC, leader of the British legal team.

"There is now a clear legal pathway to justice for the millions of Uyghurs who are allegedly being persecuted on mass by the Chinese authorities. It is a breakthrough and momentous opportunity which we urge the ICC Prosecutor to pursue without delay. This chance should not be squandered." 

Beijing has been subject to a growing numner of similar allegations of gross human rights abuses.

China's embassy in Washington dismissed these allegations as "disinformation".

Experts say that a forced birth control campaign by Beijing is part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uighurs to purge them of their faith and identity and force them to assimilate into the dominant Han Chinese culture.

Hundreds thousands of Uighur have been subjected to political and religious "re-education" in camps and forced labour at factories, monitors say.

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