London, 10th June 2021
By Tsering Passang, Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM)
An independent tribunal in Britain aiming to establish whether the Chinese government’s alleged rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (aka East Turkistan) constitute genocide saw dozens of witness testimonies during its first public hearing in London.
The first set of hearings was held at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, near the UK Parliament, from 4 to 7 June 2021. The hearings were streamed live via the World Uyghur Congress’s Youtube and Twitter channels.
According to www.UyghurTribunal.Com, Mr Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested in June 2020 that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim Populations. The Uyghur Tribunal was then launched on 3 September 2020 with assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the Coalition for Genocide Response.
Written witness testimonies include submissions from people who have had direct experience or tangential experience, alleging relations or family members are missing in addition to a substantial number of expert witness accounts. some were not published earlier. On each day of the hearings, the Witness Statements were published on the Tribunal’s website.
Researchers for the tribunal sifted through about 1,500 documents and pieces of evidence submitted from different countries. Over 30 witnesses and experts gave evidence at the first public hearing. After the second hearing, which is scheduled for mid-September 2021, the eight-member panel of the Uyghur Tribunal hopes to issue a judgment by the end of the year.
Rights groups and researchers estimate that China has rounded up a million or more Uyghurs and other minorities into prisons and vast indoctrination camps that the state calls training centers since 2016.
An increasing numbers of parliaments and governments around the world have been showing great concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs by China and have declared “genocide” committed by the Chinese state.
After the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Press Conference on Xinjiang-related issues held on the 9th June 2021, the Uyghur Tribunal released a press statement on its website. It said, “To date the PRC cannot be dealt with over allegations of genocide because it joined the Convention on terms, as allowed, that allow it to avoid being dealt with at the ICJ [International Court of Justice] for genocide. It can easily and immediately change its position and withdraw those terms. In which event it would be open to another bold country to take it to the ICJ for genocide.”
The press statement further added, “The Uyghur Tribunal’s primary concern is the impact on the wellbeing of the witnesses who gave evidence at the recent Tribunal Hearings in London and to the relatives and a neighbour of those witnesses who appeared at the PRC conference.
“The Tribunal notes the statements made by the relatives and a neighbour and the Tribunal extends an invitation to them to attend the Tribunal’s next Hearings in September of this year. We would invite the PRC to confirm that they are at liberty to travel to the UK if they so wished.”
Inviting China’s cooperation once again, the Uyghur Tribunal said, “The Tribunal will continue with its work in seeking the truth in an impartial manner. To that end, we would, again, request that the PRC provides any evidence that it may possess to the Tribunal.”
Before the first hearing, Nick Vetch, Vice Chair of the Uyghur Tribunal, said that the tribunal had written to the former and current Chinese ambassadors to London to request the Chinese government’s presence and cooperation, but so far received no response.
This is not the first time such a tribunal was held to investigate crimes against humanity by the Chinese government. In 2018, the China Tribunal, an independent people’s tribunal, was established to inquire into forced organ harvesting from, amongst others, prisoners of conscience in China and to investigate what criminal offences, if any, have been committed by state or state-approved bodies, organisations or individuals in China that may have engaged in forced organ harvesting. The hearings were held in December 2018 and April 2019. Led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the Final Judgement was made on 1st March 2020 in a 562-page report.
The Uyghur Tribunal, which doesn’t have government backing, was chaired by prominent barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who previously led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court.
Uyghur Tribunal: www.uyghurtribunal.com
World Uyghur Congress: https://www.uyghurcongress.org
Uyghur Solidarity UK: https://uyghursolidarityuk.org/