Sep 16, 2011

East Turkestan: Uyghurs Face Death After Summary Trials

Four Uyghurs have been sentenced to death for their alleged role in the protests earlier this year in July. The quick sentences suggest that the authorities have not adhered to the international accepted right of fair and open trials.

Below is a press release published by World Uyghur Congress:

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemns in the strongest possible terms the death sentences handed to four Uyghurs in connection with the violent incidents in Hotan and Kashgar in July 2011 that left around 40 people dead. As state run reported yesterday, Abdugheni Yusup, Ablikim Hasan, Muhtar Hasan, and Memetniyaz Tursun were sentenced to death and two other men— Abdulla Eli and Pulat Memet— were sentenced to nineteen years in prison and a five year suspension of their political rights for their part in the attacks. The defendants were convicted of “forming and participating in a terrorist organization, the illegal manufacture of explosives, premeditated homicide, arson, and several other related crimes.”

The speedy conviction of these individuals casts serious doubts on the legitimacy of these trials and the WUC believes that they did not meet international legal standards. In past trials against Uyghurs, confessions were extracted by torture, trial proceedings took place covertly on undisclosed dates, and defendants were denied access to a meaningful defence with lawyers of their own choosing. According to the statement, “defendants all confessed to the crimes alleged by the prosecution,” and the WUC has serious fears that these confessions were extracted through torture.

Similar cases in the past have also proved that the death sentence is not only used arbitrarily against Uyghurs who dare to stand up for their basic human rights, but also to intimidate the Uyghur population of East Turkestan as a whole. Amnesty International noted that East Turkestan is the only region in China where political prisoners have been executed in recent years.

While the WUC clearly rejects any act of violence, the WUC is also deeply concerned that the Chinese authorities have not allowed international observers and experts to investigate the Hotan and Kashgar incidents independently. The Chinese government attributed both incidents to “terrorist forces” inside and outside of China. However, it is common that the Chinese authorities equate Uyghurs’ peaceful, political, religious, and cultural activities with terrorism and religious extremism while similar outbreaks of violence in other Chinese regions are never considered “terrorism.” The 9/11 attacks in the US represented a perfect backdrop against which to justify an increased and intensified crackdown on the Uyghur people and since the 5 July 2009 events in Urumqi the oppression of Uyghurs has further increased.

“With these harsh sentences the Chinese government is also sending a clear sign to the international community that it does not care about concerns expressed by international organizations, such as the UN and the EU, and international human rights organizations, that have repeatedly criticised the extensive use of the death penalty in China,” said WUC President Rebiya Kadeer today. “In recent years, China has carried out more executions than all other countries combined, and the number of executed people goes into the thousands.”

In November 2009, a few months after the events of 5 July 2009 in Urumqi, the European Parliament passed a resolution on “Minority rights and the application of the death penalty in China” in which it “reiterated its long-standing opposition to the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances” emphasising “that its abolition contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.” It therefore called on the Chinese authorities “to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty immediately and unconditionally.”  While the Chinese government abolished the death penalty for 13 economic crimes in February 2011, human rights groups noted that these are all crimes seldom if ever punished by execution, and the abolition announcement is likely to have little effect on China´s extensive use of the death penalty.

The WUC calls on the international community to urge the Chinese authorities to provide detailed information on these and other trials involving Uyghurs and to express concern about the well-documented and widespread violations of international human rights standards in criminal-law proceedings in East Turkestan.

The WUC also calls on the Chinese government to stop its cultural, social, political, and economic oppression of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan, since its repressive policies increase the tension in the region.

Only in February 2011, the death sentence was imposed on four Uyghur men (Turhun Turdi, Abdulla Tunyaz, Ahunniyaz Nur, and Abdukerim Abdurahman) for their alleged roles in three separate incidents that took place between August and November 2010 and on two other Uyghur men, Yasin Kadeer and Ahmet Kurban, who were handed the death sentence with a two-year reprieve in connection with these incidents.

In addition, in March 2011, seven Uyghurs (Nurmemet Obulkasim, Imin Dawut, Emet Tohti, Jume Abduwasit, Ebeydulla Eziz, Nurelijan Tursun, and Nurmemet Hoshur) were sentenced to death by the Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court and three others (Abdukadir Satar, Erkin Kadir, and Kurban Nur) received death sentences with a two-year reprieve. Chinese media sources state that the seven sentenced to death were among a dozen people involved in “violent, terrorist” activities between June 2008 and October 2010. All of them were sentenced for “robbery and murder”, allegedly committed on three occasions last year between August and October.