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Press Release: Appeal over High Court ruling allowing Uyghur ‘atrocity cotton’ into UK

Press Release: Appeal over High Court ruling allowing Uyghur ‘atrocity cotton’ into UK

Press Release – For Immediate Release 
15 May 2024 
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
+49 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

Appeal over High Court ruling allowing Uyghur ‘atrocity cotton’ into UK

High Court assessed that importers could bring forced labour cotton into the UK as long as market value is paid in disturbing 2023 ruling.

17.04.24: Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and with the World Uyghur Congress are to appeal a 2023 High Court ruling in favour of the UK government which could have the effect of green lighting importation of cotton produced by captive Uyghurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang, China). The hearing is scheduled to take place during the second week of May at the Court of Appeal.

The High Court accepted the UK government’s position on ‘adequate consideration’; in effect the ruling means importers cannot be prosecuted for knowingly acquiring the product of atrocity crimes so long as they pay market price. This position makes the UK an international outlier and a safe haven for importers of goods produced as a result of crimes against humanity, and genocide. The UK and Ireland are currently permitting a flood of cotton produced by Uyghur detainees to cross their borders. The majority of high street cotton is implicated with consumers unwittingly buying clothes and goods from cotton produced as part of ongoing atrocity crimes.

Our case challenges the failure of UK’s National Crime Agency to prevent the importation of forced labour cotton by investigating importing companies. The judgment was handed down in favour of the UK authorities, who have the power to investigate these imports but refuse to do so.

The Chinese detention programme is the largest since World War II. It aims to eradicate the culture of the Uyghurs, a minority group in China. Detainees are subjected to torture, abuse and forced labour. UK MPs and several countries, including the US, Canada and the Netherlands have declared this programme to be genocide and accused China of crimes against humanity. Millions of Uyghurs are now detained and forced to produce cotton which evidence suggests ends up in UK high street stores such as Uniqlo and Zara. The UK authorities could determine this as part of an investigation but have refused.

GLAN lawyer Dearbhla Minogue said, “UK consumers are entitled to expect that they are not unwittingly buying cotton produced through atrocity crimes – the National Crime Agency must help ensure this by investigating clearly available lines of inquiry, including by questioning UK companies who list implicated Chinese companies on their supplier lists.”

Rahima Mahmut UK Director, World Uyghur Congress, said, “We have been fighting for justice for the last 7-years, yet the scale of goods produced through Uyghur forced labour is increasing. It’s not just what the CCP is doing, but the complicity of others that is enabling the genocide of my people. The UK has become a dumping ground, and consumers are systematically exposed to goods tainted by Uyghur forced labour. This case is about accountability. Doing nothing enables the CCP to continue profiting from these atrocities. The US and the EU have enough evidence to ban goods from the region – for Government lawyers to say they need more evidence of a link before they act is absurd.”

Sue Hawley, Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption, said, “GLAN and WUC’s ground-breaking appeal against a law enforcement decision not to investigate proceeds of crime could not be more important for the Uyghur people and for all those who are the victims of enforced and slave labour. We are intervening to support GLAN and WUC because this appeal also has very serious and wide-ranging implications for the UK’s regime for confiscating the proceeds of crime, whether from slave labour, corruption, or indeed environmental crime. If the decision handed down last year were to stand, it could severely undermine UK law enforcement’s ability to investigate and forfeit the proceeds of crime – and also risks driving a coach and horses through the UK’s anti-money laundering regime.” 

WUC is represented by Dearbhla Minogue and Leanna Burnard of GLAN and Bindmans LLP, Alice Hardy of Bindmans LLP, Jonathan Fisher KC, Tom Forster KC, and Anita CLifford of Red Lion Chambers, Russell Hopkins of Temple Garden Chambers, and Admas Habteslasie of Landmark Chambers. 


Notes to editors:

GLAN lawyers are available for interview or further comment.

Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) is an independent organisation made up of legal practitioners, investigative journalists and academics. We identify and pursue legal actions that promote accountability for human rights violations occurring overseas by working in partnership with other international and local grassroots organisations. GLAN provides the necessary platform to explore and develop legal strategies by combining legal and investigatory expertise.

Contact: [email protected] / [email protected] +447890 589 188

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is an international organisation that represents the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad. The WUC was established on 16 April 2004 in Munich, Germany, after the East Turkistan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress merged into one united organisation. The main objective of WUC is to promote the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkistan.

Spotlight on Corruption shines a light on the UK’s role in corruption at home and abroad. We want to see a society with strong, transparent and accountable institutions which ensure corruption is not tolerated and democracy flourishes both in the UK and globally. To achieve this, we highlight corruption and the harm it causes, and campaign to improve the UK’s legal systems and enforcement of the law. They are represented by Kingsley Napley LLP and Kennedy Talbot KC of 33 Chancery Lane.