UYGHURS’ PLIGHT DISCUSSED DURING THE 13TH SESSION OF THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL IN GENEVA

For immediate release
March 19, 2010, 11:30 am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association                                                                                             
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 The Uyghur American Association (UAA) extends its deepest gratitude to the UN mandate holders, States, and NGOs that have raised aspects of the Uyghurs’ plight during the 13th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is in progress in Geneva, Switzerland for most of the month of March 2010. The United States’ statement regarding the Uyghurs during the general debate on Item 4

Firstly, UAA thanks the United States for calling attention to human rights violations being committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people in its statement during the general debate on Item 4 of the Agenda of the 13th session of the Human Rights Council – “Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention” – on March 15, 2010. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, delivered the United States’ statement at the general debate on Item 4 on March 15th. The United States said:

“China increased cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region and increased detentions and harassment of human rights activists and public interest lawyers. The government continued its repression in Tibetan areas. It limited freedom of speech and controlled the Internet and Internet access.”

The United States had also addressed the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (known to the Uyghurs as East Turkestan) during the general debate on Item 4 at the 12th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in September 2009, which was the first session of the HRC after the July 2009 protest and the ethnic unrest in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan. During that general debate on Item 4, the United States referred to the aftermath of the July 2009 unrest in the XUAR and the 2008 unrest in Tibetan areas and “urg[ed] the Chinese authorities, as they work to maintain order, to respect the safety and legal rights of all of China’s citizens and to make efforts to find a solution to legitimate grievances.”

The segments related to the Uyghurs in the reports to the Human Rights Council submitted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and the UN Independent Expert on minority issues

The Uyghur American Association further expresses its appreciation to Dr. Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Ms. Gay McDougall, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, for addressing aspects of the Uyghurs’ plight in their reports to the UN Human Rights Council this session.

In Addendum 5 of  Dr. Nowak’s report to the Human Rights Council for the 13th session, he asserted that China maintained the “most institutionalized method of opposing political dissent” that he had encountered. He noted that “ethnic groups that are often suspected of separatism (particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs)”, as well as other groups and individuals in China, “are often accused of political crimes such as endangering national security through undermining the unity of the country, subversion or unlawfully supplying State secrets to individuals outside the country.” He further averred that such individuals are not only at high risk of torture when arrested, but also at high risk of being subjected to the Re-education Through Labor (RTL) system. Dr. Nowak also expressed concern over the excessive use of force against Uyghur protesters in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Dr. Nowak presented his report to the Council on March 8, 2010. During his closing remarks, in response to a question raised by the NGO Human Rights Advocates, he said that he had raised his deep concerns over prisoners on death row with the governments of China and several other countries.

In her report to the Human Rights Council, Ms. McDougall highlighted her efforts to secure an invitation from the Chinese government to visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (known to the Uyghurs as East Turkestan) in the aftermath of the July 2009 unrest. Ms. McDougall stated the following in her written report:

“On 22 December 2009, the independent expert issued a public statement calling for China to permit a comprehensive and independent assessment of the ethnic tensions and grievances in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where ethnic violence erupted in July 2009 between ethnic Han and ethnic Uyghur communities. The independent expert urged the Government to grant her an invitation to visit China and allow her access to the region in order to consult with government representatives and members of both communities. The independent expert noted that her mandate to promote implementation of the 1992 Declaration on Minorities would prove valuable to such an assessment and positive efforts towards reconciliation of Han and Uyghur communities.”

Ms. McDougall presented her report to the Council on March 16, 2010. During the interactive dialogue with Ms. McDougall that followed her presentation of her report, the European Union expressed concern that China (along with several other States) had not responded to repeated requests for visits made by Ms. McDougall and asked Ms. McDougall if the Council could help facilitate communications with States she would like to visit and how the Council should in general respond to persistent patterns of States’ non- cooperation with Special Procedures. In response, Ms. McDougall said that this is a very important issue that must be constantly addressed by the Council and conveyed that the Council must remind countries of the outstanding requests made by Special Procedures for invitations to visit, during the Universal Periodic Reviews of those countries’ practices.

Statements regarding the Uyghurs made by NGOs

During the consideration of the outcome of Cambodia’s Universal Periodic Review under Item 6 of the HRC agenda on March 17, 2010, the NGO Interfaith International made the following statement regarding Cambodia’s forcible and illegal return to China of 20 Uyghur asylum-seekers in December 2009:

“In addition, we are extremely concerned about the December 2009 deportation of 20 Uyghur asylum seekers to China, which was carried out at gun point. This is despite Cambodia’s signature to the 1951 Convention on Refugees. The Uyghurs, who had been registered by the UNHCR as “persons of concern” were hastily removed just two days after changes were made to a sub-decree on refugee procedure. The circumstances were highly politicised since the following day the Chinese Vice-President made an official visit to Cambodia. As was forewarned by the international community, the location and wellbeing of the 20 Uyghurs remains unknown.”

The Uyghur American Association thanks Interfaith International for highlighting Cambodia’s despicable return of Uyghurs who had fled to Cambodia seeking protection.

UAA also thanks the NGOs Society for Threatened Peoples and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights for including the Uyghurs in their statements on March 15th and 16th, respectively, during the general debate on Item 4. The Society for Threatened Peoples urged the Chinese authorities to allow the UN Commissioner on Human Rights to conduct an independent mission in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as well as in Tibetan areas. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights noted China’s announcement that it would receive the Special Rapporteur on the right to food for an official mission to China and the NGO expressed hope that the mission would include visits to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as well as Tibet and Inner Mongolia.

Statements regarding general human rights issues in China made by country delegations and NGOs

Furthermore, UAA thanks Germany, the Czech Republic, the European Union, and Sweden for addressing general human rights issues in China during their statements at the 13th session of the Human Rights Council. During the general debate on Item 4 on March 15th, Germany drew attention to the Chinese government’s restrictions on the work of lawyers and human rights defenders and the Czech Republic expressed concern over China’s increasing restrictions on freedom of expression.

The European Union conveyed concern during the general debate on Item 4 over the human rights of ethnic and religious minorities in China, as well as over the following human rights conditions in China: restrictions on freedom of expression (including press freedom and internet restrictions); the situation of human rights defenders; the widespread use of the death penalty; and the increasing restrictions on the legal profession. The EU also called on China to ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. At the general debate on Item 4 during the 12th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2009, the EU also addressed the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The EU stated, “With regard to the unrest in Xinjiang in July, the EU stresses the importance it attaches to the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. The rights of all those in detention must be fully respected.”

During the High-Level Segment of the 13th session of the HRC on March 3, 2010, Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Frank Belfrage, noted that China is the country with “the most extensive system of internet control and with – by far – the highest number of jailed cyber-dissidents.” During the continuation of the general debate on Item 4 on March 16, 2010, the United Nations Association of San Diego highlighted the persecution of human rights lawyers in China.

China utilized its rights of reply to the statements made by countries and NGOs during the general debate on Item 4.

End Note

  • See here for the written version of the United States’ statement during the general debate on Item 4 on March 15, 2010, in the course of the 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).
  • See here for the archived webcast of the United States’ oral delivery of its statement during the general debate on Item 4 on March 15, 2010.
  • See here for the written version of the United States’ statement during the general debate on Item 4 in September 2009, in the course of the 12th session of the HRC.
  • See here for Addendum 5 to Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak’s written report to the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of Dr. Nowak’s oral presentation of his report and closing remarks to the HRC on March 8, 2010 (as well as for the archived webcast of Human Rights Advocates’ statement).
  • See here for Independent Expert Gay McDougall’s written report to the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of Ms. McDougall’s oral presentation of her report and closing remarks to the HRC on March 16, 2010 (as well as for the archived webcast of the European Union’s statement during the interactive dialogue with Ms. McDougall).
  • See here for Interfaith International’s intervention on Item 6 on March 17, 2010, during the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of Interfaith International’s oral delivery of its statement on Item 6 at the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of the Society for Threatened Peoples’ oral delivery of its statement during the general debate on Item 4 on March 15, 2010, in the course of the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights’ oral delivery of its statement during the continuation of the general debate on Item 4 on March 16, 2010, in the course of the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of Germany’s, the Czech Republic’s, and the European Union’s oral deliveries of their statements during the general debate on Item 4 on March 15, 2010, in the course of the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the archived webcast of the statement of H.E. Mr. Frank Belfrage, Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs on March 3, 2010 during the High- Level Segment of the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the United Nations Association of San Diego’s oral delivery of its statement during the continuation of the general debate on Item 4 on March 16, 2010, in the course of the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here for the Human Rights Council’s press releases on its daily proceedings during the 13th session of the HRC.
  • See here and here for the archived webcasts of China’s utilization of its right of reply at the general debate on Item 4 of the 13th session of the HRC.

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