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WUC Continues to Condemn the Disappearance of Ershidin Israel One Year on

Press Release – For immediate release
30 May 2012
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

The WUC condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing disappearance of Ershidin Israel, as the 30 May marks the one year anniversary of his deplorable extradition from Kazakhstan to China from which his whereabouts remain unknown. This extradition represents one of many extraditions in which international customary law has been flouted, putting the lives of many Uyghurs at risk upon their return to China. The WUC also calls upon Beijing to provide information on his well-being, his case and his whereabouts so that he ceases to be yet another potential disappeared person.

The WUC has previously expressed concern for Mr. Israel and called for his release shortly after he was forcibly extradited from Kazakhstan to China on 8 July 2011 when it became clearer that he may become one of many forcibly returned persons. By forcibly returning Israel to China, Kazakhstan violated two of its most binding commitments under international law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture which both prohibit the return of any individual to a country where he or she faces a credible risk of torture, regardless of whether the person is a genuinerefugee.

Ershidin was deported from Kazakhstan to China 30 May 2011 after the UNHCR removed his status as a refugee due to ‘new evidence’, information of which they did not disclose. He had been due to leave for Sweden where he had been granted asylum. The extent to which the new evidence altered his status does not change the fact that he is considered a refugee under international customary law due to the likelihood that upon his return to China he would be subjected to torture and other inhumane treatment as the many precedents suggest. Moreover, the bilateral extradition agreements between Kazakhstan and China do not supersede this.

Upon Mr. Israel‘s extradition, the Kazakhstan diplomats gave written guarantees that he would not be executed. However, the lack of transparency in China does not allow for a full follow up to ensure that this has been or will be followed through. On 14 June 2011, Chinese authorities allegedly confirmed that Mr. Israel was in their custody but failed to disclose his whereabouts. We are therefore unable to confirm as to whether this information is true or not. As of March 2012, Enver Israel, Ershidin’s brother, confirmed in a conversation that his family have not yet received any information pertaining to Ershidin’s fate or detention.

China has repeatedly failed or unsatisfactorily respond to pleas for information about his condition and whereabouts, including those from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) who, along with Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued an urgent action on 29 July 2011 concerning the forced deportation of Mr. Israel. China’s response failed to provide further details that were already known and again omitted the details of his whereabouts.

Most concerning in the response was the assertion that, “Mr. Ershidin has now fully confessed… “ which indicates worrying signs on how these confessions have been obtained. Ill-treatment and torture in detention are widespread in China and the WUC fears that Mr. Ershidin may have confessed under duress. In addition, the “terror” charges made against him create further concerns, since the Chinese authorities regularly equate any form of peaceful Uyghur opposition with the “three evil forces” (terrorism, extremism, separatism), misusing the fact that Uyghurs are Muslim as a convenient excuse in light of the 9/11 attacks.

In light of these recent developments, the WUC again firmly rejects the continued detention and the shroud of secrecy surrounding therein, and calls for the immediate release of Mr. Ershidin.The WUC calls on the international community to demand accountability from China regarding his whereabouts and to press Chinese officials for information pertaining to his case, including: his current location, his current conditions and well-being, the current status of his case and whether or not he has been given access to a lawyer of his own choice, instead of a government-appointed lawyer.

The international community must also take legal action against Kazakhstan and demand that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) account for the human rights impact of its practices such as, but not limited to, denials of asylum and forcible return of asylum seekers.

Background information:

Ershidin Israel fled East Turkestan in September 2009 after having provided information to Radio Free Asia (RFA, about the apparent torture to death of a young Uyghur man named Shohret Tursun. Shohret Tursun had been detained by the Chinese authorities soon after the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in Urumqi, East Turkestan´s regional capital. His dead body was returned by the Chinese authorities to his family in September 2009 covered in wounds and bruises, strongly suggesting that he had been tortured to death. According to Mr. Tursun’s father, the authorities claimed he died of a heart attack, but he had no history of heart problems and at 31 years old, he was a relatively young man. His family was forced to bury the body without any inquiry about his death. RFA broadcasted and published stories on this case in September 2009 based on information that Ershidin Israel and other witnesses provided.

Very soon thereafter, the Chinese authorities arrested two Uyghur men, Haji Memet and Abdusalem Nasir, whom the authorities accused of also providing information to RFA about the case of Shohret Tursun.  Mr. Israel informed RFA also on these arrests whereupon the Chinese authorities started to seek for Ershidin Israel who then fled to Kazakhstan.

After Mr. Israel arrived in Kazakhstan in the fall of 2009, he applied for refugee status from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees´ (UNHCR) office in Almaty. In March 2010, UNHCR’s office in Almaty granted Mr. Israel UN mandate refugee status and secured a resettlement offer for Mr. Israel from Sweden. Mr. Israel was scheduled to depart to Sweden on April 1, 2010.

But while making final preparations to leave Kazakhstan, a UNHCR official informed Israel that Kazakh authorities had refused to supply him with the necessary documents to leave the country. On April 3, Israel was moved into an apartment guarded around the clock by Kazakh police officers while the UNHCR investigated the delay in his resettlement.

In June 2010, he was detained by local authorities and has since attended a total of five hearings on his application for refugee status, all of which rejected his bid and ruled that he must be returned to China. The arrest was largely made as a result of China’s false and baseless terrorism allegations against Mr. Israel and China’s request that Kazakhstan return Mr. Israel to China. Mr. Israel is not a terrorist. The Chinese government often labels Uyghurs who peacefully dissent and exercise their freedom of speech as terrorists.The real reason that the Chinese authorities want Mr. Israel is that he exercised his freedom of speech and provided the aforementioned information to RFA.