UHRP Urges Caution Ahead of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Visit
March 8, 2022, 12:00 p.m. EST
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) urges the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to proceed with caution on any visit to the Uyghur region. A visit must complement, not eclipse, an independent assessment of the situation by the High Commissioner, which UHRP continues to urge to be released.
“The High Commissioner cannot allow this visit to amount to a PR victory for the Chinese government,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “While a visit may help UN investigators further assess the situation on the ground, they must remember that the Chinese government has done everything in its power to promote a story about their treatment of Uyghurs that does not align with basic facts.”
The High Commissioner’s Office should be alert to attempts to obstruct and control access for investigators, and to the severe constraints on the ability of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples to speak freely to journalists or investigators.
The last visit to East Turkistan by a UN Special Rapporteur took place in 2005, when Manfred Nowak, then Special Rapporteur on Torture, visited Urumchi, and stated forthrightly in his report that Chinese officials attempted to “obstruct or restrict his attempts at fact-finding.” The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty made similar remarks after a visit to China in 2015.
UHRP has called for the High Commissioner’s report to be released without further delay, given the extreme severity of widely documented atrocities. UHRP joined 190 groups in a joint open letter released just today, stating our concern about the silence of the High Commissioner’s office on the Uyghur crisis.
Following the release of the High Commissioner’s assessment, UN Member States should immediately support a UN Commission of Inquiry within the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to elaborate on its findings and determine next steps for accountability.
In addition to engagement by the High Commissioner’s Office, an unprecedented number of special procedures issued a statement in June 2020 expressing concerns over human rights violations in the Uyghur region, and called for the UN to take “decisive measures” to protect human rights.
More recently, an International Labor Organization (ILO) committee expressed “deep concern” about China’s policies, including labor issues, and recommended that China “review its national and regional policies with a view to eliminating all distinction, exclusion or preference.”
Uyghur organizations call on the ILO to denounce Uyghur forced labor, November 10, 2021