Uyghurs’ Plight Discussed at 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Press Release – For immediate release
28 March 2012
Contact:  World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

The 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) concluded on 23 March 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States (presently including the People’s Republic of China) responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. The Council meets three times a year in Geneva, and the 19th session ran from 27 February until 23 March 2012. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) conveys its deepest gratitude to all stakeholders that raised and discussed the violation of Uyghur human rights.

Statements made on item 3 (“Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development”)

Item 3: Clustered Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment

During the Clustered ID with the SP on Torture, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (IHF) expressed its concern over the enforced disappearances of “individuals from politically targeted groups, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong, democracy activists and human rights defenders,” and their “alleged torture or other ill-treatment in police custody or detention,” stating “such acts are rarely subject to investigations.” The IHF also remained “seriously concerned about proposed amendments to China´s Criminal Law Procedure which if considered would permit the legalization of secret detention,” and supported the Special Rapporteur’s call that China should “refrain from introducing the proposed amendment, since it would effectively legalise “disappearances” of people considered as political risks.” The IHF highlighted that Article 73 of this law “would allow to secretly detain citizens for up to six month on suspicion of “endangering state security” or “terrorism” – two vague charges that have long been manipulated by the Chinese authorities to crackdown on dissidents human rights lawyers, civil society activists, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongolians.”

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue (ID) with the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

During the ID with the newly appointed Independent Expert (IE) on Minority Issues, Ms. Rita Izsák, Canada highlighted the “alarming situation of Uyghurs and other minority groups,” and asked the IE “which steps can be taken to contribute to improving these situations.” Canada also recommended focusing “this year’s UN Forum on Minority Issues on the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, given the global trend of rising intolerance towards religious minorities.”

The Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP) said it “would like to bring the attention of the Independent Expert on the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Peoples’ Republic of China. MRAP is very concerned about the Chinese government´s failure to grant the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), China, access to education in their own language, while the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (REAL) entitles minorities to use and develop their own languages, including in education. The so-called “bilingual” education policy not only threatens the survival of the Uyghur language, but also intends to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur people into Han culture.”

MRAP also raised the forcibly transfer of Uyghur women to factories in Inner China under state-sponsored programmes. MRAP highlighted that “the government focuses its aggressive recruitment efforts primarily on young, marriage-age Uyghur women and girls from predominantly Uyghur areas such as southern Xinjiang. Under this program, thousands of Uyghur women and young girls have been removed from their communities and families in the XUAR and placed into abusive and poor working conditions that include physical and psychological ill treatment. The forcible transfer of Uyghur women has coincided with the resettlement of ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang being part of a larger assimilation policy promoted by the Chinese government.” Finally, MRAP expressed its hope that “Ms. Izsák will be able to visit minorities in the PRC during her first mandate.”

General Debate on Item 3

During the general debate on item 3, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) delivered an oral statement on the discrimination of the Uyghur people. 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 that „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.“ 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.“

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 remained 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.“ The STP „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.“

Statements made on item 4 (“Human Rights situations that require the Council´s attention”)

During the general debate on item 4, several country delegations as well as NGOs, raised human rights abuses on East Turkestan in their oral statements.

The Czech Republic denounced the “continued escalation of tensions in Tibetan areas and Xinjiang” and reiterated its “call on the Chinese authorities to allow for unhindered access to all areas for international monitoring.”

The United States said, “China uses arrests, convictions, forced disappearances, and extralegal detentions to silence dissent, tightened controls on the Internet, restricted civil society, and limited the rights of religious believers to practice their faith. We call on the government to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights. We urge the government to reassess policies that undermine Tibetan and Uyghur linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions, creating grievances and fostering unrest.”

Denmark on behalf of the European Union expressed its “concern over the human rights situation in China where over the last year we have seen various cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and harsh prison sentences handed down for political reasons,” and also called “for the unconditional release of all those imprisoned and detained solely for peacefully exercising their basic rights, such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion.”

France stated, “The persistence of grave violations of human rights and other fundamental freedoms in China, continues to be a motive for serious preoccupation.”

Also Germany remained “concerned about human rights in China,” and called on the Chinese authorities “to respect the right of freedom of expression, and to respect the rule of law.

The UK expressed is concern about “politically-motivated detentions in China,” and called on China to “safeguard the civil, political and cultural rights of all its citizens, in line with its international obligations.”

The Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational Transparty (NRPTT) delivered an oral statement on the human rights violations against the Uyghur people. In its oral statement, the NRPTT expressed its concerns over the increased religious oppression in East Turkestan. The NRPTT also denounced that threats, detentions and prison terms in connection to peaceful religious activities are widespread, increasing social tensions in the region. The NRPTT called on the Human Rights Council and particularly on the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, to investigate these severe violations of fundamental freedoms, notably the freedom of religion, committed by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur people.

In addition, the NRPTT, with the support of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), submitted a written statement entitled “Violation of Uyghurs’ right to health: Nuclear testing in Xinjiang” (A/HRC/19/NGO/57) under item 4. The statement calls on the People’s Republic of China and the UN Human Rights Council to draw attention to, and address the issue of Lop Nor. It also requests that victims receive medical assistance, and for independent research to be conducted in the Lop Nor area to assess how great the risk is.

China categorically rejected all statements made by NGOs or state delegations on the human rights situation in the country.

UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders´ mentions of the Uyghurs in their reports to the HRC

In its latest report (A/HRC/19/58), the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) included the case of Ershidin Israel, a Uyghur refugee extradited from Kazakhstan to China on 30 May 2011. On 29 July 2011, WGEID together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued an urgent action (CHN 16/2011) on the enforced disappearance of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel, after his forcibly deportation to China without his family and lawyers being informed (see p. 35, para. 137). In addition, the WGEID issued also an urgent appeal regarding the enforced disappearances of Shemshiden Israel (one of Mr. Israel’s brothers), Abdusalam Nasir and Abdukerin Dihan, related to Ershidin Israel’s case (see p.36 para. 144). In the reply received by the Chinese government on 11/10/2011 on both WGEID communications, the Chinese authorities indirectly acknowledge the detention of Mr. Israel, but again refuse to disclose the detention location of Ershidin Israel.

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, presented its new report (A/HRC/19/61) to the HRC, as well as a follow-up report (A/HRC/19/61/Add.3) to the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur’s visit to China.