Exiled Uyghurs urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday, July 07, to investigate Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The group also filed a huge dossier of evidence with the Hague-based court to back their case. This includes a list of senior Chinese Communist Party members who are allegedly responsible for the treatment of the Uyghurs including the Chinese president.
The evidence handed to the ICC’s prosecutor accuses China of locking more than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in re-education camps and of forcibly sterilising women.
China has called the forced sterilisation accusations baseless and says the facilities in the northwestern Xinjiang region are job training centres aimed at steering people away from terrorism.
“Today is a very historic day for us.” Salih Hudayar, prime minister of the self-styled East Turkestan government in exile, told a virtual press conference held in Washington and The Hague.
China is not an ICC member but lawyers for the Uyghurs said the court could follow the example of its ongoing probe into the treatment of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar, which is also not party to the tribunal.
ICC judges ruled in 2018 that the Rohingya investigation could go ahead because the situation in Myanmar affects people in neighbouring Bangladesh, which is a member of the ICC.
Rodney Dixon, a London-based human rights lawyer for the Uyghurs, said it was a “historic breakthrough” and “hopefully a turning of the tide as the ICC can now act.”
The evidence filed with the court showed that China was guilty of “harsh repressive measures” over more than a decade, he told the press conference from The Hague.
“These include mass interments in excess of a million people, murders, disappearances, torture, and harrowing accounts of sterilisations and birth control measures,” said Dixon.
Dixon said following the example of the Myanmar case begun by the ICC prosecutor last year showed there was a “clear way which allows the ICC to exercise jurisdiction.”
The case was possible because crimes including forced deportations back to China happened in Tajikistan and Cambodia, which are both ICC members, the dossier filed by the exiles says.
The ICC has no obligation to consider complaints filed to the prosecutor, who decides independently what cases to submit to judges at the court, set up in 2002 to achieve justice for the world’s worst crimes. (Source: The Straits Times)