The Uyghur Tribunal, a “people’s tribunal” established in the UK, on Sept. 27 appended a December 2021 judgment, incorporating nearly 300 additional pages of historical background, legal definitions and evidence. The stated purpose of the tribunal is to investigate “ongoing atrocities and possible genocide against the Uyghur people” in the People’s Republic of China, although the tribunal has no force of law.
The initial judgment found that “in Xinjiang and at the hands of some part or parts” of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained. Many of the detained have been tortured: beaten with sticks, fingernails pulled off, some shackled by heavy weights, immobilized for months on end. Detained women and men have been raped and starved, and those fortunate enough to avoid crowded cages are subjected to solitary confinement.
Genocide is defined by the UN in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as killing, harming, or imposing measures to prevent births among members of a “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” with intent to destroy. The convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly.
While the alleged acts were sufficient for the tribunal to initially conclude that crimes against humanity have been committed, genocide was found more difficult to prove as there is no evidence of mass killings.
The appended judgment acknowledges that, in contrast to treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, the detained Uyghurs are allowed to eventually return to society in most cases. However, the judgment notes that, coinciding with mass detention, mosques have been destroyed and religious activity suppressed. Those who use the Uyghur language in public are punished, and child separation from families is common. In many cases, Han Chinese men are “imposed on Uyghur households” to monitor and report behavior. The appended judgment concludes that taken together, these practices constitute genocide.
Implicitly acknowledging the isolated position of Xinjiang, in the remote far west of the People’s Republic, the judgment states: “[I]f humanity is single across the globe, then universal human rights anywhere engage obligations not just of governments but of citizens everywhere… Geographical proximity does not strengthen, and geographical distance does not dilute, the duty humans owe to humans anywhere; at most distance affects ability to act.”
From Jurist, Sept. 21. Used with permission.
See our last report on the Uyghur Tribunal.
Photo: Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons