Dec 04, 2009

Statement of Concern: Uyghur Refugees in Cambodia and Further Executions of Uyghurs in China


UNPO voices concerns about the safety of 22 Uyghurs currently seeking asylum in Cambodia as well as the fate of 5 more Uyghurs sentenced to death yesterday [3 December 2009] for allegedly taking part in the Urumqi riots.


Uyghur Refugees in Cambodia 

UNPO is deeply concerned about the safety and the possible extradition of 22 Uyghurs currently seeking asylum in Cambodia. 

Yesterday [3 December 2009], The Washington Post has reported that twenty-two Uyghurs, allegedly involved in the Urumqi unrest, have claimed asylum in Cambodia. The Chinese government has demanded that they be returned to China and tried on charges of ‘splittism’. Such a rendition would violate the principle of non-refoulement embodied in international law through the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1984 Convention on Torture.  Both conventions forbid the expulsion of refugees into an area where they would be likely to be subjected to persecution, torture or execution. 

UNPO General Secretary Mr. Marino Busdachin has expressed concern about the possibility of extradition to China. “If this past month’s legal proceedings are any indication of the due process China affords Uyghurs, there would be little likelihood for fair trials”.

Cambodia has been criticised in the past for its record on refugee rights following several documented cases of forcible repatriation of asylum seekers to Vietnam.


Further executions of Uyghurs in China

UNPO is dismayed to learn that five additional Uyghurs were sentenced to death today for allegedly taking part in riots this past summer in Urumqi. Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, named the five individuals as Memeteli Islam, Mamattursun Elmu, Memeteli Abburakm, Kushiman Kurban and Helil Sadir.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government announced that it had put to death eight other Uyghurs under similar charges. These executions align with China’s recently declared “Strike Hard” campaign in East Turkestan which has included high arrest quotas, speedy and opaque trials and an overall lack of due process. 

The executions come in the wake of a European Parliament resolution on 26 November calling upon Beijing to “suspend all…death sentences" and “make every effort to develop a genuine Han-Uighur dialogue”. The resolution followed a 12 November statement from the Presidency of the European Union calling for China to establish a moratorium on the death penalty pursuant to United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/149 and 63/168. 

Mr Busdachin called the executions a “disappointing, but not unexpected” development – one that showed once more “China’s callous disregard for both human rights and the international community”.


Below is the Press Release of the World Uyghur Congress regarding the death sentences of 5 Uyghurs:


World Uyghur Congress and Uyghur American Association call for urgent international action against death sentences for five Uyghurs

For immediate release

December 3, 2009, 5:15 pm EST

Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemn in the strongest possible terms the sentencing of five Uyghur men to death in connection with unrest that broke out following a police crackdown on peaceful Uyghur protesters on July 5, 2009 in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan. WUC and UAA call upon the international community to protest the death sentences, which were marked by a lack of transparency, and to press for an independent inquiry into the events of July 5 and their aftermath. WUC and UAA believe international pressure and publicly expressed concern are vital in order to stop executions of Uyghurs and to put an end to Chinese government authorities' continuing, widespread abuses against Uyghurs in East Turkestan.

"Five men were sentenced to death today after unfair, politicized trials," said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. "The Chinese government has brazenly ignored all standards of due process of law in a campaign to silence and intimidate the Uyghur population through executions and mass detentions. I fear that these five Uyghurs will face the same fate of the nine men executed in November, if the world remains silent. As the entire region of East Turkestan remains in a communications blackout, the world must stand up and condemn the egregious human rights violations being carried out by the Chinese government, or Chinese officials will feel emboldened and state brutality against Uyghurs in East Turkestan will continue to worsen."

The official Xinhua News Agency announced on December 3 that the Intermediate Peoples Court of Urumchi had handed down death sentences to Memeteli Islam, Memet Tursun Helim, Memeteli Abdukerim, Kushman Kurban and Helil Sadir. Two other men were sentenced to life in prison, and another six were given jail terms. Xinhua reported that trials would be held on December 4 in connection with another five cases related to July 5 unrest.

WUC and UAA call upon the leaders of the United States, United Nations, European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to condemn the death sentences and to urge Chinese authorities to release Uyghurs who have been arbitrarily detained, open trials to outside observers and ensure adherence to due process of law for Uyghurs. WUC and UAA commend the European Parliament for adopting a resolution on November 26, 2009 that expresses concern about the rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans in China, as well as about Chinese authorities' application of the death penalty.

On November 9, 2009, Chinese state media announced the executions of nine men, eight Uyghurs and one Chinese, who were convicted on charges connected with July 5 unrest. According to reports, the men were not allowed a final visit with their family members prior to their execution.

WUC and UAA have received reports that large numbers of Uyghur detainees have been tortured and even killed since July 5. Detained and imprisoned Uyghurs are frequently subjected to torture and forced confessions at the hands of the police and judiciary. Uyghurs who have publicized information about police abuses, such as two men living in Qorghas County who told Radio Free Asia about the death of a Uyghur detainee in police custody, have been detained.

The trials of the 13 men sentenced on December 3, as well as the trials of other individuals on July 5-related charges that have been publicized by Chinese state media, have been carried out quickly behind closed doors, and have been hampered by state-sanctioned threats towards lawyers not to represent Uyghur suspects. Both prosecutors and judges in East Turkestan received instructions from Party authorities regarding the handling of cases related to July 5. As stated by Amnesty International in a December 3 press release, defendants are believed to have been denied the right to choose their legal representation. In addition, while China's Supreme Court is now required to review all cases involving the death penalty, Amnesty International noted that the short time between death sentences and executions carried out in November calls into question the Supreme Court's review process.

Remarks made by Chinese government officials prior to July 5 trials indicate the existence of political pressure to issue death sentences to Uyghurs involved in the July 5 unrest. Former Urumchi Communist Party secretary Li Zhi, at a press conference on July 8, stated that executions would be used to deal with those involved in the unrest. According to a report published by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, in a July 11 article in the Legal Daily, the president of the Supreme Peroples Court, Wang Shengjun, called on courts of all levels to be united in their thinking with central authorities' judgments and policies.

Nearly five months after the protests in Urumchi on July 5, the entire population of East Turkestan remains cut off from the rest of the world through state-imposed phone and Internet restrictions. International telephone communication has been stopped, preventing Uyghurs abroad from being able to connect with their family members at home, and making it extremely difficult to obtain information about events that have occurred in East Turkestan since July 5. Bloggers have reported that Uyghurs are restricted from Internet access in Internet cafes throughout China. The transmission of cell phone text messages has also reportedly been limited to messages from Communist Party authorities to residents of East Turkestan.

Thousands of Uyghurs have been swept up in “enforced disappearances” in Urumchi, Kashgar and other cities since July 5, in large-scale sweep operations and targeted raids. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch illustrated how mass arrests and detentions of Uyghurs carried out after July 5 violated both Chinese and international law, as security forces did not provide reasons for arresting people, and failed to inform family members of the locations where their loved ones were being detained.


See also: