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ICC refuses to investigate China over Uyghur atrocities

China is not a party to the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: December 15, 2020 10:42 AM GMT
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ICC refuses to investigate China over Uyghur atrocities

A demonstrator wearing a mask painted with the colors of the East Turkestan flag attends a protest in Istanbul in July 2018 to denounce China's treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims. (Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has refused to investigate China for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity against ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims.

In July, Uyghur representatives provided The Hague-based court with evidence accusing China of human rights violations against the Muslim minority and of forcibly sterilizing their women.

The court expressed its inability to initiate a probe against China on Dec. 14.

The East Turkistan Government in Exile moved the ICC on July 9 to investigate China for alleged genocide but the case was weakened as China is not a party to the Rome statute of the court.

The evidence accused more than 30 Chinese officials, including Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping, of being responsible for illegally deporting Uyghurs from Cambodia and Tajikistan.

The East Turkistan Government in Exile, representing the persecuted Uyghurs in China's autonomous Xinjiang region, was banking on a 2019 court ruling that crimes occurring in the territory of an ICC state party fall within its jurisdiction. It initiated a probe against Myanmar for atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

The office of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it was unable to act against China, which is not a signatory to the ICC.

The Uyghurs, also represented by the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, argued that though the alleged crimes did not take place on Chinese soil, the ICC could act against China as they happened in Tajikistan and Cambodia, which are members of the global legal body.

But their claims did not convince the court as it observed that there was "no basis to proceed at this time" on separate claims of forced deportations from Tajikistan and Cambodia.

China has termed the accusations baseless and said that it is only giving vocational training to the minority Muslim population in Xinjiang and the mass job training centers are not internment camps.

The complaint is the first attempt its kind to prosecute China at international level for human rights violations against the Uyghur people, whose cause has been championed by many countries, international organizations and influential individuals.

They alleged that the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs are being subjected to imprisonment and torture, forced birth control and sterilizations.

This month, more than 60 parliamentarians from 14 nations sent a letter to the ICC seeking the prosecution of China for the "most egregious human rights abuses" against the Uyghurs.

The Uyghurs practice an esoteric strand of Islam and were the earliest inhabitants of the Tarim Basin on China's border with Central Asia.

Their allegations also include suppression of their culture, language and places of worship but Beijing claimed that these policies are meant to combat separatism and radical Islamism.

Involving the United Nations to refer a complaint to the ICC can be blocked by China at any time as it possesses veto power.

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