THE HAGUE: China's ethnic minority community, the Uighurs, have finally approached the the International Criminal Court seeking justice for human rights against them.
The New York Times reported that a team of London-based lawyers representing two Uighur activist groups have filed a complaint against China for repatriating thousands of Uighurs through unlawful arrests in or deportation from Cambodia and Tajikistan. This is for the first time that an international court's help is being taken against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The two Uighur groups are the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM). They campaign for independence for Xinjiang, which they call as East Turkestan, the name of two short-lived Uighur republics.
The EETGE said, "Uighur victims have been unlawfully deported into occupied East Turkistan from Tajikistan and Cambodia. Upon return to China, they have been subjected to crimes together with many other detained Uighurs including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced birth control and sterilisation and forced marriages."
The 80-page complaint includes a list of more than 30 Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, whom the exiled Uighurs have held responsible.
"The crimes committed against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic peoples 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 languages in schools, enhanced surveillance of Uighurs and other Turkic peoples significantly beyond that experienced by Han Chinese, repressive measures against Islam, and organ harvesting," the ETGE said.
"This can become a critical case because for so long it has been assumed that nothing could be done to hold China accountable at an international court," Rodney Dixon, a British lawyer representing the cases, was quoted as saying.
The ETGE has listed witness accounts and 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 Uighur women of child-bearing age -- of which there is recent evidence of a major increase. An estimated 500,000 Uighur children being separated from their families and sent to 'orphanage camps', where there have been credible reports of attempted suicide by the children".
The applicants believe that with the court's order the victims of genocide and several other atrocities will finally see justice.
However, it is hard to say when the ethnic community will get justice as China does not recognise the court's jurisdiction because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.
Speaking on the jurisdiction issue, Dixon said, "The filing on behalf of the East Turkistan government in exile confirms that the ICC has jurisdiction over international crimes allegedly committed against the Uighur and other Turkic peoples. 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 Uighurs who are allegedly being persecuted on mass by the Chinese authorities. It is a breakthrough and momentous opportunity which we urge the ICC Prosecutor to pursue without delay. This chance should not be squandered," added Dixon.