One Year After Historic UN Report, UHRP Calls on UN Human Rights Office to Stop China’s Impunity for Grave International Crimes 

UN Geneva 2023

For immediate release
August 31, 2023, 10:00 a.m. EDT
Contact: Omer Kanat, +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin, +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the UN Human Rights Office to take decisive action to respond to ongoing atrocities targeting Uyghurs, one year after former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, published an assessment citing possible crimes against humanity.

“One year after this groundbreaking report, it feels like almost nothing has changed,” said Omer Kanat, UHRP Executive Director. “Uyghurs need the UN human rights office to be a leader in the global response to China’s atrocities.”

The upcoming 54th session of the Human Rights Council presents yet another opportunity to address the human rights crisis. The UN human rights office risks setting a precedent that powerful states can act with impunity while committing the gravest international crimes.

Upon release of the groundbreaking UN report on August 31, 2022, UHRP, the World Uyghur Congress, and 61 other Uyghur organizations called on governments and UN Agencies to take immediate action to prevent further atrocities.

When Volker Türk took office as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, UHRP urged his office to vigorously pursue accountability, and to call on the Chinese government to stop these documented abuses.

In March 2023, the High Commissioner acknowledged the need for “concrete follow-up” on the report’s recommendations, and said in June that his office was seeking “further engagement” with China. One year later, however, we are deeply concerned that no progress has been made to substantively address the situation, despite numerous calls from UN human rights bodies and experts:

  • The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted a Decision in November 2022 referring to “serious human rights violations committed” in the Uyghur region, and referred the matter to the attention of the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Responsibility to Protect;
  • Fifteen UN experts issued a joint communication on December 19, 2022 laying out seven key recommendations and benchmarks for China to meet;
  • The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention included six cases of Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in Opinions in late 2022 and early 2023, and said that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty” may constitute crimes against humanity.
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Committee of Experts reiterated, in February 2023, its “deep concern” about discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities” in the Uyghur region;
  • The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reviewed China in March 2023 and issued a number of recommendations on forced labor, cultural rights, and arbitrary detention;
  • The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reviewed China in May 2023 and issued critical recommendations on birth prevention, forced marriage, forced labor, and sexual and gender-based violence.

Since August 2022, UHRP has documented forced marriages; the humanitarian needs of the Uyghur diaspora; the Chinese government’s destruction and marginalization of UNESCO-listed heritage; the failure of UNHCR to consistently protect Uyghurs abroad; and international travel companies profiting from tours to the Uyghur region.

We urge the High Commissioner to update the UN Human Rights Council on the situation in East Turkistan, follow up on the recommendations of his office’s report, and determine a constructive path forward to address ongoing abuses.

Read more: 

UN Committee Grills China on Widespread Gender-based Violence Targeting Uyghur Women, May 12, 2023

Parallel Submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), April 13, 2023

UN Committee Lambasts China for Trampling Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at Home and Abroad, March 7, 2023

Uyghur Organizations Press for Follow-Up on UN China Human Rights Review, February 16, 2023

Parallel Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, February 9, 2023

UNESCO and its Members Must End Complicity in China’s Cultural Cleansing of Uyghurs—New UHRP Report, February 9, 2023

Despite States’ failure, Uyghurs and rights groups won’t give up efforts to hold China accountable at the UN, October 6, 2022

Uyghur Organizations from 20 Countries Call for an End to Impunity for China, October 6, 2022

Uyghur Groups Urge UN Member States to Vote “Yes” on Steps Towards Accountability, September 26, 2022

OHCHR assessment of human rights concerns in the Uyghur region must spur action at the Council’s 51st Session, September 14, 2022

UN Confirms Conclusive Evidence of Atrocities Against Uyghurs, August 31, 2022

UHRP Welcomes UN Expert’s Report Citing Possible Crimes Against Humanity, August 16, 2022

Over 220 Groups Urgently Demand UN High Commissioner Immediately Postpone Her Visit to China, May 6, 2022

UN High Commissioner must uphold principled and coherent response to China’s human rights crisis, April 19, 2022

UHRP Urges Caution Ahead of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Visit, March 8, 2022

Open letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: OHCHR report on grave human rights violations in Xinjiang can wait no longer, March 8, 2022

UHRP Welcomes UN Joint Statement on Uyghur Crisis, Awaits Release of High Commissioner Report, October 22, 2021

Civil society groups welcome action by UN human rights experts to address forced labour in Uyghur region, March 30, 2021

#VoteNoChina: 70 Uyghur organizations call governments to vote against China’s election to UN human rights body, October 7, 2020

China should not be appointing UN investigators while refusing cooperation with them, April 7, 2020