Society for Threatened Peoples Denounces Arbitrary Detentions and Enforced Disappearances of Uyghurs at 19th UN Human Rights Council

WUC, 9 March 2012

On 9 March 2012, WUC Project Coordinator Jana Brandt, on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) delivered an oral statement on human rights violations against the Uyghurs during the general debate on item 3 (“Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development”) at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

In its statement, the STP welcomed the most recent report of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), as well as the latest report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), which both included references to human rights abuses in China.

In regard to arbitrary detention, the STP highlighted the WGAD’s remark on the connection between arbitrary detention and the principle of non-refoulement. In many areas of the world, refugees and asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to arbitrary detention based on politically motivated charges from their countries of origin. In these cases, extradition often ensues in complete contravention of international human rights law, notably the principle of non-refoulement. Also the WGAD´s remark that detaining states must release arbitrarily detained foreigners into their own territory should a deportation violate the principle of non-refoulement, is very significant according to the STP. As an example, the STP referred to the pressure exerted by the Chinese authorities on neighbouring states to detain and extradite Uyghur refugees.

Also the fact that many governments use arbitrary detentions to facilitate enforced disappearances as a means of suppressing any form of peaceful dissent is a serious concern for the STP. In its report, the WGEID noted that countries like China are notorious for such human rights violations and included an urgent action issued in July 2011 on the enforced disappearance of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel. Israel was forcibly deported from Kazakhstan to China in May 2011 and is disappeared since then.

The STP also expressed its concern over secret detentions in China. While a new Criminal Procedure Law was approved on 8 March 2012, the STP remains concerned that individuals suspected of crimes involving national security or terrorism can still be detained in a “designated facility” without notifying their family members if the seriousness of the charges require this measure. In the light of the Chinese government´s abuse of state security charges to silence dissidents, opposition, and minorities, the STP strongly urged the WGEID to closely monitor the developments on the issue, and noted that in China, the whereabouts of hundreds of Uyghurs detained and forcibly disappeared solely for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and religion are unknown.

The Chinese delegation interrupted the intervention of the STP with a point of order, claiming that the issues described in STP´s statement had no relation to the item under discussion, and that under this item mentions to specific countries in the NGO statements were not allowed. The Chairperson of the session however noted that the STP was referring to reports presented to the current Human Rights Council session and that the STP statement was in line with the agenda item under review. The Chairperson further noted that human rights abuses in specific countries could be used as examples to underline explanations, and allowed the STP to finish its speech.

At the end of the general debate on item 3, and speaking in a right of reply, the Chinese delegation categorically rejected the allegations made against China by the Society for Threatened People and said that China was a country governed by the rule of law and it did not allow arbitrary detentions or forced disappearances.

The full STP statement can be downloaded here.

The video of the intervention is available here.