East Turkestan: Youth Dies Whilst Detained
A 12 year old died in custody following his arrest while undertaking basic lessons in Islamic prayer, in the latest event to demonstrate the fundamental breaches of human rights in China.
Below is a press release issued by the World Uyghur Congress:
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly condemns the abhorrent death of 12 year old Mirzahid whilst in police custody in Korla, East Turkestan. The case is riddled with many violations of fundamental international human rights law, as well as reminiscent of the persecution that Uyghurs face on a day-to-day basis and other deaths in detention of minors, such as that of Noor-ul-Islam Shebaz in November 2011.
Although the details surrounding his arrest are not quite clear due to the difficulties in obtaining information, according to the reputable Radio Free Asia (RFA – written in Uyghur) and other articles, a young Uyghur boy, Mirzahid, was arrested on 20 May 2012 while undertaking basic lessons in Islamic prayer and reading of the Qu’uran along with two other students and their teacher, whose fate remain unknown. The lesson was taking place at the home of the student’s teacher. Uyghurs have been forced to seek alternative ways to attain a basic religious education due to the severe religious restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. Only state sanctioned religious schools are legal, which have very limited places and notoriously difficult entry requirements, thus hindering access for many Uyghurs.
According to RFA, the police said that he had committed suicide while in detention. However, upon the retrieval of his body, it became painfully clear that he had been tortured, with clear evidence of strangulation around the neck, beatings, among other signs. The police went on to intimidate his family into not speaking of his death and should also quietly bury Mirzahid’s body immediately. He was subsequently buried with the presence of the police and without any reading of the Qu’uran being permitted on 22 May 2012.
His death comes against the backdrop of increased presence of security forces in the region since a clash in Korla between young Uyghurs and police, in which time four Uyghurs were killed (in Turkish). In addition, Mirzahid’s father has been living in exile for the past 11 years.
Speaking on the situation, WUC President, Rebiya Kadeer said: “Whilst the fact that many Uyghur adults are detained, tortured and, in cases, executed or die as a result of their treatment is utterly deplorable, the case of Mirzahid is particularly barbaric. Whatever his crime – indeed, precedents suggest that there was unlikely to be a crime – no child should be detained, moreover tortured to death. This incident is a flagrant abuse of the most basic international human rights law.”
China has ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ms. Kadeer went on to say: “China must recognise the competency of the Committee against Torture, and undertake all measures so that this barbaric act does not repeat itself again. China must immediately cease its persecution of Uyghurs and the denial of their right to freedom of religion, especially for children for whom there should be no exception.”