June 2nd 2021 | Ruth Ingram | BItterWinter
The gloves are off with only days to go before an investigation is launched in the UK into alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in North West China.
Beijing has fired a volley of assaults on the integrity and motives of those behind the “absurd” independent Uyghur Tribunal which opens on Friday, accusing it of “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”
The Tribunal has already come under attack recently. It was included in a raft of PRC sanctions against UK entities that have condemned CCP actions against the Turkic peoples of Xinjiang, and dared to use the “G” word in particular. Beijing has threatened further actions if necessary,” in the light of the “cheap tricks,” to “smear China and interfere with its internal affairs.”
Atrocities being meted out to Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are increasingly being denounced as genocide around the world. A handful of states have stepped forward, but the World Uyghur Congress which requested the independent tribunal, is hoping, depending on the judgement, for an accelerated international response to the Uyghur crisis.
The Uyghur Tribunal was set up in September last year to investigate a swathe of allegations of brutality amidst the simultaneous erosion of Uyghur culture and religion. The detention of a significant proportion of the Uyghur population, torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, rape and other sexual violence, the forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, forced labor, forced organ harvesting, enforced disappearances, killings in detention, forced marriages and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households, are just some of the crimes of which the PRC is accused.
Lead by prominent human rights barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, deputy prosecutor at the ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic war crimes trial at The Hague, who was also personally sanctioned by Beijing in March, the eight member panel consisting of academics, lawyers and a former diplomat, will act as a jury to examine witness and expert evidence to assess whether the PRC has embarked on a campaign intended to destroy in whole or in part, the Uyghur people and their existence as a racial, national and ethnic group. “These acts if proved, could also raise the question of whether the PRC has committed Genocide as defined in Article 2 of the Convention of 1948 to which China was a signatory and the PRC is a ratifying state together with other crimes including Crimes against Humanity,” state the Tribunal organizers.
1,500 pieces of evidence and documents have been submitted from different countries and the UK government has fast-tracked visa applications from four eyewitness camp survivors to attend the hearings in person. The Tribunal has been funded from voluntary donations and panel members are acting on a pro-bono basis. The hearings will take place over four days from June 4-7, and again later in the autumn. The judgement is expected towards the end of the year.
Beijing has mocked the tribunal as a “grave violation of international law and a serious provocation to the 25 million people of all ethnic groups in the region.” China has consistently denied all allegations of human rights violations and despite mounting evidence to the contrary claims that religion is practiced freely and that there is harmony among all racial groups.
Officials from Xinjiang dismissed the legitimacy of the tribunal at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday, saying that the Uyghur Tribunal was not a proper judicial body and had no legal basis. “No state, organization or individual has the right to arbitrarily find another state guilty of genocide,” said Elijan Anayat, a Xinjiang government spokesperson, during an interview with China’s state broadcaster CGTN. He condemned all those giving evidence as “actors and liars.”
Justifying the need for an independent tribunal such as this, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC pointed out, “If it were realistically possible to bring the PRC to any formal international court—in particular to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) —there would be no need for the establishment of a people’s tribunal.” China vetoes every attempt to bring it to justice and has entered a reservation against an ICJ jurisdiction. “There is no known route to any other court that can deal with the issues before the tribunal.”
The aim of the tribunal is to review and assess the evidence before it. “It will be for States, international institutions, commercial companies, art, medical and educational establishments and individuals to determine how to apply the Tribunal’s Judgment, whatever it may be, in their dealings with the PRC. This could include, but is not limited to, trade and other sanctions including against individuals, proscribing the sale of technologies, surveillance and medical equipment and the declaration of ineligibility for visas,” said Sir Geoffrey.