Human Rights Violations Against Uyghur People Discussed During the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

For immediate release
28 March 2011
Contact:  World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

The 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC, 28 February – 25 March 2011) concluded on Friday, 25 March 2011, in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) conveys its deepest gratitude to the country and intergovernmental delegations, the UN mandate Holders / Special Procedures, and the non-governmental organisations in consultative status to the UN that raised and discussed the Uyghurs´plight at the HRC session, as well as the stakeholders that raised general human rights violations in China.

High-Level Segment (HLS) statements

Sweden said in its HLS statement that it was worried about the use of death penalty in some countries and that it was especially concerned about China, since “the highest number of executions is believed to be carried out in China” and that it “regret that the Chinese authorities are not publishing information in this regard.”

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

On 11 March 2011, 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) the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP, www.gfbv.org) delivered an oral statement on the arbitrary detention of Uyghur human rights defenders and activists, the torture of political prisoners like Alim Abdurehim, the son of well-known Uyghur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, the denial of medical care for ethnic Uyghur Mehmet Eli Rozi currently in detention in China, as well as the systematic economic discrimination Uyghurs are facing today in East Turkestan. The full statement is available here.

The press release of the United Nations on the general debate on item 3 can be found here.

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

On 14 and 15 March 2011, the general debate on item 4 (“Human Rights situations that require the Council´s attention”) took place, during which several country statements referred to the Uyghurs.

In its oral statement, Hungary, on behalf of the EU, welcomed “the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to China in December 2010, as well as the reduction in China of the numbers of crimes carrying the death penalty, hoping that China will take further steps towards its complete abolition”. In the complete written version of this statement, distributed in the conference room, the EU further said that “the EU is concerned by increased violations of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as well as by the increasing use of extra-legal measures to harass and restrict the activities of lawyers and human rights defenders, and is also concerned on the frequent reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. The rights of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, notably in Tibet and Xinjiang, need to be fully respected in accordance with the Chinese Constitution and international standards. The EU encourages China to accelerate its efforts to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

The United States highlighted in its oral statement on item 4 that “China restricts religious freedom, and freedom of expression, including on Internet. Human rights defenders, including lawyers, face imprisonment. Tight controls on Uyghur and Tibetan language, religion, and culture continue”.

Germany proclaimed in its item 4 statement that “freedom of press must also apply to foreign correspondents. We deplore the recent events in China where foreign correspondents were detained. Also, we call on China to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression in its minority regions, in particular in Tibet and Xinjiang, together with the protection of all human rights it has committed to as an international obligation”.

Also the Czech Republic addressed the human rights situation in China and the Uyghurs in its statement. “We welcome the declarations of the high representative of China on their willingness to discuss human rights issues and are keen to see them put into practice, for example through an inclusive dialogue on freedom of expression and respect to freedom of assembly in all parts of its territory. In this regard, we wish to specifically call upon the Chinese authorities to address the unsatisfactory situation of the rights of national minorities such as the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region or Tibetan people”.

Two countries, namely Sweden and Slovakia, addressed the general human rights situation in their item 4 statements. Slovakia condemned the tight internet control in China and called “on the Chinese government to ensure unconditional release of Nobel Peace Prize´s laureate Liu Xiaobo as well as other prisoners of conscience lacking credible criminal charges”. The full statement is available here. Sweden said that “while welcoming social and economic developments in China, we are worried by set backs in the development towards rule of law, by the harassment of human rights defenders, the extensive use of death penalty and the infringements of the freedom of expression and assembly”. The Swedish statement is available here.

China used its own item 4 statement to defend its national policies by saying that Chinese citizens, including the national minorities, are fully guaranteed freedom of expression and assembly. In addition, the Chinese delegation made use of its right to reply and said that it firmly rejected the statements made by the United States, Hungary, Slovakia, considering them “groundless accusations”. In response to the statements made by Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden, the Chinese delegation refuted their accusations, saying that “those countries lacked objectivity and fairness and used the practice of politicization”, and maintaining that “the ethnic minority people had improved their living and education standards and their cultural heritage had been protected. Their political rights had also been fully guaranteed. The Chinese Government would continue to protect their citizens’ rights according to their law”.

Jana Brandt (WUC Project Coordinator) delivered a statement under item 4 on behalf of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty (NRP, www.radicalparty.org), speaking about the violation of freedom of expression of the Uyghur people, and highlighting the long prison sentences for Uyghur media workers in 2010. NRP stated that nearly a dozen Uyghur journalists, blogger and website staffs, among them Gheyret Niyaz, Gulmire Imin, Memetjan Abdulla, Dilshat Perhat and Tursunjan Hezim, have been sentenced to harsh prison terms, including life imprisonment, in closed and unfair trials. Most of them were convicted on charges of “endangering state security” (ESS) – charges that are regularly and arbitrarily misused by Chinese authorities to silence peaceful Uyghur dissent. NRP called upon the HRC to strongly support and defend an end of the systematic persecution of freedom of expression in China, and to urge the Chinese government to unconditionally and immediately release all imprisoned journalists and media workers.

The press release of the United Nations on the general debate on item 4 can be found here.

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

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had sent a communication to the Chinese government regarding the detention and enforced disappearances of hundreds of young Uyghur men in the aftermath of the July 2009 events. However, the Working Group did not receive any response from the Chinese authorities regarding these allegations. For further details, see the Working Groups´ Report available here. In addition, both the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment investigated in their reports (available here and here) the case of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel currently detained in Kazakhstan and in danger of being extradited to China. The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment also published a follow-up report to the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur visit to China.

The UN Human Rights Council has regular sessions three times per year in Geneva, Switzerland.  The next session will take place in June 2011.