Webinar: How the ICC can Investigate and Prosecute Chinese Officials for Genocide against Uyghurs and Other Turkic People

The below was published by the East Turkistan Government in Exile, photo credit: ETGE/ETNAM

  • On July 6th an Article 15 Communication was submitted to the ICC prosecutor asking for an investigation to be opened into the Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity committed against Uyghurs by Chinese officials. 
  • The communication was submitted by British barrister Rodney Dixon QC, on behalf of Uyghur and other Turkic people represented by the East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement
  • The communication has received support from many international bodies including the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) who sent a letter to the Prosecutor asking her to open an investigation urgently.
  • On November 23rd, an information session was held to explain the process of an ICC investigation and why the prosecutor has jurisdiction to investigate the crimes.

November 23rd 2020

Today, an information session was held to explain the Article 15 communication submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the prosecutor to open an investigation into Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity allegedly committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples by senior Chinese Leaders including President Xi Jinping. 

The session was hosted by the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, with their lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC. The ETGE considers East Turkistan (wha China refers to as “Xinjiang”) to be a colony or occupied country which as an independent state would be known as East Turkistan – as it had been prior to Chinese Communist occupation in 1949.

The crimes allegedly committed against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples – by Chinese officials – which should be investigated include:

  • massacres;
  • mass internment camps;
  • torture;
  • disappearances;
  • forced birth control and sterilisation;
  • forcible transfer of children from their families to Chinese state orphanages and boarding schools; 
  • measures aimed at eliminating the use of the Uyghur and other Turkic language in schools;
  • enhanced surveillance of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples significantly beyond that experienced by Han Chinese;  
  • repressive measures against Islam; and, 
  • organ harvesting.

The evidence of the crimes provided in the communication is detailed and shocking. It 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 – of which there is recent evidence of a major increase, and an estimated 500,000 Uyghur children being separated from their families and sent to “orphanage camps” where there have been credible reports of attempted suicide by the children.  

The communication has received widespread support from members of Parliament around the globe including 65 members of the Inter-parliamentary Alliance on China who signed a letter urging the prosecutor to begin the investigation. 

The information session was held to update the global Uyghur diaspora and other interested parties on the latest updates with regards to the ICC opening an investigation, as well as to explain the legal basis for the communication as follows:

The Chinese Government has conducted a campaign to round up Uyghurs abroad and who have fled East Turkistan as a result of the crimes committed against them in China. They have been forced back into occupied East Turkistan including from Tajikistan and Cambodia. This has been carried out by Chinese officials and police. After being arrested and forcefully deported back into China, they have been subjected to human rights abuses and serious crimes. This is a breach of international law.  

The Complaint has been submitted in light of, and relies on, the decisions of ICC Pre-Trial Chambers I and III of 6 September 2018 and 14 November 2019 respectively (decisions related to Bangladesh and Myanmar in reference to Rohingya people), which clarified that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes under Article 12(2)(a) of the Statute when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a signatory. In this case, Tajikistan and Cambodia.

The Crimes committed against the Uyghur people have been widespread and systematic. They have taken place on a mass scale and should therefore all be investigated in order to ascertain whether the alleged perpetrators can be charged and tried. As the Court held in the Rohingya cases, continuing crimes that commence on the territory of an ICC State Party come within the jurisdiction of the Court and can be investigated. These crimes include Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.

Speaking at the session Mr Rodney Dixon QC said, “Since the filing was made in July, there has been growing support for the prosecutor to open an investigation into the crimes allegedly being committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples. As our filing makes clear, the ICC has jurisdiction over these international crimes. 

The support for our filing should give the Prosecutor encouragement that she should open an investigation into officials of the Chinese Government for the atrocities being committed.

For too long it was assumed that nothing could be done by the world’s criminal court. There is now a clear legal pathway to justice for the millions of Uyghurs who are allegedly being persecuted by the Chinese authorities. It is a breakthrough and momentous opportunity whichI once again urge the ICC Prosecutor to pursue without delay. The time to achieve justice for Uyghur people is now.”  

Speaking at the session East Turkistan Government in Exile Prime Minister Salih Hudayar said, “For over 71 years China has been engaging in a campaign of colonization, genocide and occupation in East Turkistan and this is the first time in our history that we have sought to seek justice through international law and international institutions.” He further added that, “we urge governments across the world to support our case at the ICC and recognize China’s atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples as a genocide.”