International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2018: Investigate Reports of Deaths and Torture in ‘Reeducation Camps’

For immediate Release
June 25, 2018 3:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26), the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on United Nations (UN) member states to question China about reports of deaths and torture at ‘reeducation camps’ in East Turkestan. China’s November 2018 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) provides an opportunity for responsible governments to pressure Beijing into explaining credible allegations of deaths in custody and torture amid mass incarcerations of Uyghurs. 

“The time has come for China to come clean about the system of reeducation camps put in place across East Turkestan. Chinese officials not only need to acknowledge the existence of these camps, but also account for the treatment of internees. According to firsthand testimonies the use of physical and psychological torture is common,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “The international community should use China’s UPR to ask difficult questions about the reeducation camps. Overwhelming evidence points to a mass violation of human rights underway in East Turkestan and it is everyone’s responsibility to work toward its end. China must not be allowed a free hand in building facilities of mass and arbitrary detention where the use of torture is encouraged.”

Since the spring of 2017, China has detained possibly over a million Uyghurs in ‘reeducation camps.’ Reports have revealed the regional extent of the facilities and overcrowded conditions. Radio Free Asia has also documented a number of deaths in custody, including those of Muhammad Salih HajimAbdulnehed MehsumYaqupjan Naman, Abdulreshit Seley HajimAbdusalam Mamat, Yasinjan, and an unidentified Uyghur female.

In a May 18, 2018 Associated Press report, former internees of the ‘camps’ described a pattern of physical and psychological torture: “Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.”

Despite its status as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, China continues to carry out acts of state sanctioned violence on its citizens. To date, no effective mechanisms have been initiated in China to curb the practice of torture within its borders and in East Turkestan.

The torture of Uyghur internees in ‘reeducation camps’ is consistent with frequent reports of physical abuse and other maltreatment of Uyghurs in Chinese government custody. In late 2005, after making his first official visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that “torture was widespread” in China. Nowak added that there has been a “consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs.”

In November 2015, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT). The submission documented no progress in ending the practice of torturing Uyghur detainees since Manfred Nowak’s visit ten years earlier.

UHRP and the WUC highlighted several cases of Uyghurs subjected to torture by the Chinese state. Among the documented Uyghur victims included were Shohret Tursun, Noor-Ul-Islam Sherbaz and Tudahun Hoshur.

Upon designating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the UN General declared:

Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.