Human Rights Lawyers Present Case to ICC for Investigation Into China's Treatment of Uyghurs

A group of human rights lawyers presented a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday to investigate China's treatment of Uyghurs based on witness testimonies and investigations into countries including Tajikistan, the Associated Press reported.

The dossier established "that Uyghurs have been targeted, rounded up, forcibly disappeared and deported from Tajikistan" back into China's western Xinjiang region "by Chinese operatives," the lawyers said in a statement.

They argue that since "Chinese authorities have directly intervened in Tajikistan," the ICC has the jurisdiction over these actions and urged the group to begin an investigation "without delay."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Uyghurs Abuses Investigation
A group of human rights lawyers presented a case to the International Criminal Court on Thursday to investigate China's treatment of Uyghurs based on witness testimonies and investigations into countries including Tajikistan. Above, witness Kazakh-Uyghur Omir Bekali demonstrates how he says he was shackled in chains at a re-education camp as he speaks on the first day of hearings at the Uyghur Tribunal, a panel of UK-based lawyers and rights experts investigating alleged abuses against Uyghurs in China, in London, on June 4, 2021. Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The move is the latest attempt by international human rights lawyers to get an investigation started at the Hague-based court into allegations of atrocities against Uyghurs by China, which is not a member of the court.

The filing seeks to use the legal precedent of an investigation opened by the ICC into allegations of mass deportations and persecution of Rohingya people by Myanmar forces that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya across the border into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar is not a member of the court, but Bangladesh is.

In the Rohingya case, a panel of ICC judges ruled in 2019 that the court "may exercise jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a State Party."

In July last year, lawyers representing exiled Uyghur activists asked the ICC to investigate the forced repatriation of thousands of Uighurs from Cambodia and Tajikistan and alleged genocide in Xinjiang.

In a report issued in December, ICC prosecutors said that "there was no basis to proceed at this time" with an investigation into the allegations.

Based on their findings, the lawyers said, "it is clear that the ICC does have jurisdiction to open an investigation."

An estimated 1 million people or more—most of them Uyghurs—have been confined in re-education camps in China's western Xinjiang region in recent years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control, torture and separating children from incarcerated parents.

Beijing rejects allegations that it is committing crimes. Officials have characterized the camps, which they say are now closed, as vocational training centers to teach the Chinese language, job skills and the law to support economic development and combat extremism. China saw a wave of Xinjiang-related terror attacks through 2016.

The Chinese Embassy in The Hague did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawyers' dossier.

ICC Investigations into China
A group of human rights lawyers presented a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday to investigate China's treatment of Uyghurs based on witness testimonies and investigations into countries including Tajikistan. Peter Dejong/AP Photo