Human Rights Violations against Uyghurs Discussed at 21st Session of the Human Rights Council

Press Release – For immediate release
27 September 2012
Contact: World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

In light of the ongoing human rights violations in East Turkestan, the plight of the Uyghurs has been mentioned on several occasions during the 21st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is currently being held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and due to end tomorrow. The Human Rights Council is one of the most important venues for discussion of human rights issues. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) has been working hard to bring the Uyghur human rights situation to the attention of the international community. Several stakeholders, including state delegations and NGOs, have responded, of which the WUC is greatly appreciative.

Below is a summary of the mentions currently made along with the hyper-links where possible. The mentions were in the form of oral interventions in addition to written statements by NGOs.

Statements made on Item 3 (“Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development”)

On 15 September 2012, during the General Debate on Item 3, WUC Project Coordinator Michael Phillips delivered an oral statement on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples in which the ongoing enforced disappearances of Uyghurs since 5 July 2009 were placed in the context of the new mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, whose first report was presented at this Session. The statement emphasised the causal link between systematic and gross human rights violations, citing the human rights violations that caused the peaceful protests on 5 July and the gross human rights violations that happened in the aftermath, namely, inter alia, enforced disappearances. Further, to quote, “Rather than inspiring confidence in the legal system and guarantees of non-recurrence, the People’s Republic of China proceeded to pass amendments to its Criminal Procedure Law which de facto legalise the practice of enforced disappearances.”

Other NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Liberal International, noted more generally their concerns for the ongoing use of the death penalty in China.

In China‘s right of reply, it noted that NGOs should base their statements on fact and relate them to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. China rejected the assertion that the 5 July 2009 protests were peaceful, and affirmed its previous stance that they were organised by separatists inside and outside Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan). Going further, China believes that it has done much to ameliorate the economic development of XUAR (East Turkestan), a policy welcomed by “all ethnic groups“, and that it would continue to implement such policies. The WUC, however, notes that China failed to recognise that it has not yet undertaken an independent and comprehensive investigation into the 5 July protests and the subsequent disappearances, thus contradicting its own assertion that NGOs should ‘base their statements on facts’.

Statements made on item 4 (“Human Rights situations that require the Council´s attention”)

During the General Debate under Item 4, which was held on the 17 September 2012, Le Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Aminité des Peuples devoted its entire oral intervention to the Uyghurs, in which the speaker noted with great concern the reports of ongoing enforced disappearances of Uyghurs and the amendments to China’s Criminal Procedure Law that will de facto legalise the practice. This followed on from the Czech Republic‘s expressed concern for enforced disappearances of Uyghurs, in which it said that it is following closely the situation in XUAR, “where a number of Uyghurs remain subjected to enforced disappearances by the chinese authorities according to various reports.”

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights also made note of the decades of human rights violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans and Mongolians.

Cyprus on behalf of the European Union said in its oral statement, to which all EU member states aligned themselves, that it is, “concerned about ongoing reports of human rights violations in China, particularly with regard to freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief, and the situation of minorities, including in Tibet and Xinjiang.” After aligning itself with the EU’s statement, Germany expressly noted, “its concerns about ongoing reports of human rights violations in China.” Sweden went further by reiterating, “its concerns about the human rights situation in China, including setbacks in the rule of law, freedom of expression and harassment of human rights defenders.” Sweden called on, “China to ensure the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including in Tibet and in Xinjiang, are fully respected.” Switzerland noted similar concerns.

The United States devoted a part of its statement to draw attention to the fact that, “China silences dissent through arrest, convictions, enforced disappearances and extra-legal detentions, and has tightened controls on the internet, persecutes human rights lawyers, intimidates activists’ families, impedes civil society, harasses journalists and limits religious freedom.”

China again used its right of reply (to view the statement in Chinese, see here)to reject the “unreasonable attacks launched by the US, EU, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany and relevant NGOs.” It claimed that it was a country of many religions in which all “fully enjoy freedom of religious belief.” China also noted that the end-of-Ramadan festival, Eid Al-Fitr had been made a public holiday. It also claimed that no-one would be prosecuted for their opinions or beliefs, “even less […] for expressing their political opinions.” The WUC however notes that there have been severe restrictions on religion, in particular during Ramadan this year, one example of which is the so-called commitment contract that forces Uyghurs to, among other things, refrain from wearing religious dress-ware in their homes.

Written Statements

The Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational TransParty submitted a written statement under Item 4 on the increased religious repression during Ramadan. The Society for Threatened Peoples also submitted a written statement under Item 4 on the 5 July enforced disappearances and its concern for the amendments to China’s Criminal Procedure Law.

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