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PRESS RELEASE: Uyghur Human Rights Project and World Uyghur Congress to Submit Universal Jurisdiction Complaint to the Criminal Courts of Argentina for Genocide and Crimes against Humanity against the Uyghur People

PRESS RELEASE:  Uyghur Human Rights Project and World Uyghur Congress to Submit Universal Jurisdiction Complaint to the Criminal Courts of Argentina for Genocide and Crimes against Humanity against the Uyghur People

Press Release – For Immediate Release
14 December, 2021
Contact: Michael Polak

[email protected]
+44 020 7936 3637

The World Uyghur Congress (“WUC”) and the Uyghur Human Rights Project (“UHRP”) have instructed lawyers to prepare a universal jurisdiction criminal complaint to submit to the Federal Criminal Court of Appeals in Buenos Aires, Argentina setting out the international crimes being committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic people in the Uyghur Region and the identity of those most responsible for these crimes. Under Argentinian universal jurisdiction provisions, the Courts have jurisdictions for international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity, wherever they take place. 

The UHRP and WUC have instructed international barrister Michael Polak, chair of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights to lead a team to make the submission. 

Once the complaint is filed, the first stage of the process, the “prosecutorial stage”, will take place. This is where the appointed judge considers the complaint and submissions from the public prosecutor as to whether to open a case.  If the judge opens the case, the investigation starts and evidence will be submitted by the WUC and UHRP which clearly demonstrates that the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture are taking place against the Uyghur people as well as other ethnic Turkic people in the Uyghur region.

When sufficient evidence is before the Court, the judge can indict the defendants, issue arrest warrants, and send the case to trial. If a case is opened against the individuals most responsible for the crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghur people, the judge is also required to call the reporting person or groups to ratify their complaint. This could be a historic opportunity for the Uyghur people and the first-time that the evidence of the atrocities being committed against the Uyghurs is presented in a court.

The legal team plans to submit the criminal complaint in early February 2022 and to hold a press conference and information panel in Argentina with camp survivors and international experts to explain how the systematic repression of the Uyghur people by the Chinese state operates and what individuals and states can do to counter this repression. 

The Argentinian Appeal Court has recently ordered an investigation into the international crimes against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military under the principle of universal jurisdiction which will be applied in the Uyghur’s case.

On 9 December 2021, the Uyghur Tribunal, headed by eminent jurist Sir Geoffrey Nice QC found that China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people. This decision was made after the Tribunal heard evidence from multiple survivors and experts on the region. 

Barrister Michael Polak stated:

‘The use of universal jurisdiction provisions is the next step in the path to justice for the Uyghur people and to hold to account those who are ordering the most horrendous international crimes against them. Throughout history we have said never again a number of times and here, yet again, we have a group that is being attacked simply because of their ethnicity and religion by a powerful state. 

The Argentinian universal jurisdiction provisions provide a golden opportunity for justice for the Uyghur people and it is clear, especially given the recent ruling in the Rohingya case, that the Argentinian courts are willing to apply their progressive laws to achieve justice for individuals facing serious repression no matter where that is taking place.” 

Mr. Omer Kanat, Executive Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), stated:

“Uyghurs deserve to have a competent and recognized court adjudicate these ongoing atrocities and make a judgement that cannot be ignored by the international community. If international courts like the ICJ and the ICC are still unable or unwilling to look at the evidence, it will be up to national courts to begin to bring cases against China for these crimes.

World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa stated:

”Uyghurs have desperately been seeking accountability and justice but faced numerous challenges along the way, such as the fact that currently international courts are unable to prosecute the criminals responsible for this genocide. It is therefore critical that a country like Argentina uses its universal jurisdiction to hold the perpetrators of the Uyghur genocide to account. Argentina must lead the way.”

Notes to Editors

The Uyghurs

The Uyghurs are an ethnic Turkic group lived in the Uyghur Autonomous Region who speak their own language, which is similar to Turkish, are mostly Muslim, and who see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations and cultures. 

There is strong evidence from a number of sources that the Chinese authorities are committing crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly Muslim Turkic ethnic groups in the north-western region. Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”, and has sentenced hundreds of thousands to arbitrary prison terms despite there being no evidence that they have committed any crimes. There is also evidence that Uyghurs are being used as forced labour and of Uyghur women being forcibly sterilised. Former camp detainees have also alleged they were tortured and sexually abused.

The World Uyghur Congress

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is an international democratic organisation that represents the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad. The main objective of the WUC is to promote democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uyghur people and use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project 

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) promotes the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples in East Turkistan, through research-based advocacy. UHRP was founded in 2004 as a project of the Uyghur American Association and became an independent nonprofit organization in 2016.

Michael Polak

Michael Polak is an international barrister based in London. He practises in international, criminal, and human rights law from Church Court Chambers.  Michael is also a director of Justice Abroad which helps people who need assistance dealing with legal proceedings overseas as well as working on human rights advocacy. He is chair of the group Lawyers for Uyghur Rights and was awarded the International Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer Award for 2021