Human Rights Violations against Uyghur People Discussed at 17th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva

World Uyghur Congress, 17 June 2011

From 30 May to 17 June, the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) would like to thank the country delegations, the UN mandate Holders / Special Procedures, and the non-governmental organizations 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 abuses in China.

Opening Session

In her opening statement to the 17th session, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, expressed her concerns about “increased restrictions on freedom of expression” in China.

Statements made under Item 2 (Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and report of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General)

During the general debate on item 2, the Society for Threatened Peoples denounced the enforced disappearances of Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs when they exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion”.

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 3 June 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, presented his new report in which he makes three separate references to China, regarding the high number of imprisoned journalists, the extensive censorship of internet, and the imposition of intermediary liability for online content.

During the Interactive Dialogue (ID) with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, several NGOs raised Uyghur and China related issues.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) dedicated its entire ID statement to the violation of freedom of expression in China. Among many other issues, HRW criticized the fact that the Chinese government is “cutting off the Internet entirely in areas hit by episodes of social unrest, such as Tibet in 2008, Xinjiang in 2009, and most recently parts of Inner Mongolia”. HRW also raised the problem of imprisoning people for daring to peacefully express their views, such as the Uyghurs or Tibetans. HRW stated “the government routinely asserts that only imposes restrictions on expression in line with Chinese law, neglecting to mention that such laws are incompatible with international standards”. HRW also expressed its concerns regarding charges on “incitement to subvert state power” often misused by the Chinese authorities to silence any form of peaceful dissent, especially against the ethnic groups, and called on the HRC to urge China to amend the definition of these charges.

Freedom House highlighted the lack of internet freedom in China and drew special attention to the high prison terms netizens face for their online activities.

On 6 June 2011, during the general debate on item 3 the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP, www.gfbv.org) delivered an oral statement on the ongoing violation of Uyghurs´ freedom of expression raising individual cases such as the imprisonment of the Uyghur media workers Gulmire Imin, Memetjan Abdulla or Gheyret Niyaz. The STP also expressed its concern over the recent extradition of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel from Kazakhstan to China and urged the Human Rights Council to demand China and Kazakhstan to disclose Mr. Israel´s current whereabouts, legal status and well-being. The STP asked the HRC to look into the SCO member states’ ongoing prioritization of questionable regional commitments over their international human rights obligations – particularly those obligations enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The video of the intervention is available here.

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme (RADDHO) expressed concern over the restrictions on freedom of expression in China and regret the “continued lack of consideration by China of all the economic, social and cultural rights of its ethnic minorities”.

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

On 15 June 2011, the general debate on item 4 took place. Both the U.S. and the Czech Republic raised the issues in their statements. The U.S. denounced that “China has still not accounted for 20 Uyghur Muslims who were forcibly returned from Cambodia in 2009” and expressed concern over the enforced disappearance of 300 Tibetan monks and the general violation of freedom of opinion and speech in China. The Czech Republic called upon the Chinese government to “establish an environment where human rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly, and the rights of national minorities, including Uyghurs and Tibetans, are fully respected”.

Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), France, Belgiumand Sweden expressed concern over the systematic violation of freedom of expression and the deterioration of the human rights situation in China.

On behalf of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty (NRP, www.radicalparty.org), WUC Project Coordinator Jana Brandt delivered a statement under item 4. In its statement, the NRP condemned the Chinese authorities´ inaction and refusal to reveal the real circumstances of the tragic 5 July 2009 events and called upon the Human Rights Council to press for an independent investigation. Despite international calls, the Chinese authorities have not allowed an impartial investigation into the incident and the number of people killed, detained, imprisoned, executed and disappeared remains unclear. The NRP also expressed its concern that the root causes of the protests, namely, the crackdown on Uyghur culture, identity, freedom of expression and religion, as well as the ongoing economic discrimination have not yet been addressed. In addition, the NRP condemned the recent extraditions of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel and of at least 28 ethnic Uzbeks from Kazakhstan to China and Uzbekistan respectively. NRP said it was extremely worried about the deepening collaboration between Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states whose dismal domestic human rights record and disregard for the rights of refugees represent a blow against human rights in the region. The video of the intervention is available here.

The NRP, in collaboration with the World Uyghur Congress, submitted a written statement on item 4 entitled “Second anniversary of the 5 July 2009 events in Urumqi, regional capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), People’s Republic of China: Two years of impunity”.

The Society for Threatened Peoples delivered a joint statement with the Nonviolent Radical Party and International Educational Development on the enforced disappearance of over 300 Tibetan monks of the Ngaba Kirti Monastery.  The STP stated that “given this background, it becomes the responsibility of this Council to address chronic human rights situation faced by Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs under Communist China” and urged the Chinese authorities “to receive the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on a fact-finding mission that will include visits to Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang”.

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

The Addendum (A/HRC/17/27/Add.1) to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression included the case of the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel extradited from Kazakhstan to China on 30 May 2011. On 2 July 2010, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism sent an urgent appeal regarding Ershidin Israel.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and has three sessions per year.