Statement of Society for Threatened Peoples on Item 4 (“Human right situations that require the Council’s attention”) of the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

9 June 2010

Thank you Mr. President.  The Society for Threatened Peoples is deeply troubled by the persecutory measures that have been exacted by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur people in connection with the July 2009  protest and ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the PRC.  On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs in Urumqi, the regional capital, staged a peaceful protest and that protest was brutally suppressed by Chinese security forces.  In fact, eyewitness accounts provided to human rights organizations and media  indicated that security forces committed extrajudicial killings of protesters.

Since the July 2009 protest and the ethnic unrest that followed, the authorities have arrested thousands of people, many of them during mass detentions, including mass roundups of young Uyghur men.  An untold number of Uyghurs, including teenaged boys, have been subjected to enforced disappearances.  Human Rights Watch has made many inquiries to the Chinese authorities about the many Uyghur disappearance cases it has documented and the authorities have failed and refused to provide any information on these cases.    

The Chinese authorities have ensured that defendants prosecuted in connection with the July 2009 events have been denied due process.  Among other things, they have given judges and prosecutors special instructions on how to handle the July 5th cases.  They have hand-picked the judicial personnel assigned to the trials according to political criteria.  They have warned human rights lawyers against taking protest-related cases, which further means that defendants have not had access to legal representation of their choice.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Urumqi has arbitrarily sentenced at least 24 Uyghurs to death after trials plagued with the aforementioned politicization and lack of due process.  At least 8 of these Uyghurs have already been executed.  For these 8 Uyghurs, all of the following happened within 4 weeks.  They were tried, convicted, and sentenced.  Their sentences were upheld by 2 appellate courts and they were executed.  The speed with which these legal processes took place, especially in the context of capital cases, is emblematic of the lack of due process.

The Society for Threatened Peoples respectfully asks the Human Rights Council to call on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those who are only alleged to have protested peacefully on July 5th or who have been held without evidence and to ensure that those accused of cognizable crimes under international and domestic law are afforded due process, not subjected to torture or other forms of ill treatment, tried in an open and fair court, and given access to legal representation of their choice.  Furthermore, we call on China to address the root causes of the July 5th protest and the ethnic unrest, including the severe political and religious repression and economic discrimination to which Uyghurs are subjected and the dilution of Uyghurs’ language and culture.  Thank you.