Jun 21, 2012

East Turkestan: Planned Deportations Condemned

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) has called on authorities in Sweden to reverse their decision to deport two Uyghur asylum seekers back to China, a deportation which the WUC believes will result in persecution for the deportees from Chinese authorities.

Below is a press release issued by the World Uyghur Congress:

Since the inception of the World Refugee Day in 2001 following the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/76, the 20 June has stood as a poignant reminder to the international community of the adversity that all refugees face around the world as well as acting as an important opportunity for all refugees to stand in solidarity with each other in the pursuance of their fundamental human rights. A decade after the UN adoption of the World Refugee Day, however, the situation of Uyghur refugees has been rapidly deteriorating. Countries neighbouring or near China, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, deported Uyghur refugees in violation of international principle of nonrefoulment. Many extradited Uyghur refugees were put on show trials and given long sentences by China. And the whereabouts of rest of the extradited Uyghur refugees are unknown.

While the extradition of Uyghur refugees by the non-democratic states of Asia is to some extent not a surprise, but there have been cases of Uyghur refugees being deported by Western democracies, chief among them is Sweden. Sweden has been reputed for its fair treatment and handling of refugee cases in the world. But the recent trend of deporting Uyghur refugees who will face severe political persecution after deportation to China is disturbing. The World Uyghur Congress is seriously concerned with such a trend and requests the Swedish government not to deport Uyghur refugees to China.

As World Refugee Day approaches on 20 June 2012, two Uyghurs in Sweden are facing the threat of deportation back to China following the Swedish authorities’ refusal to grant them political asylum. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported yesterday [19 June 2012] the imminent deportation of two Uyghurs from Sweden to China after their latest asylum requests were refused. Maierhubai Delimulati (also known as, Merhaba Dilmurat), 23, has been involved in speaking out against the Chinese government’s repressive policies directed against Uyghurs in East Turkestan, whereas Tuogeluke Haimiti (also known as Tughluq Hemit) was involved in the peaceful protests on 5 July, 2009 in Urumchi that were violently suppressed, causing widespread ethnic unrest. He subsequently fled China after several of his friends were detained as the authorities cracked down on the Uyghurs in the aftermath of the ethnic unrest.

Both now fear that they will be sent back to China – where they will almost certainly face torture, lengthy prison sentences and beatings, as precedents suggest – being that all avenues have been exhausted through the Swedish asylum process.

“The World Refugee Day should stand as a stark reminder to the international community of the serious situation facing Uyghur refugees and their obligations to protect them in accordance with international law. I urge the Swedish authorities not to deport Merhaba Dilmurat and Tughluq Hemit to China but reconsider their cases on humanitarian grounds,” said WUC President Rebiya Kadeer.

Under international law, refugees are afforded substantial protection. They are protected under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, 1984 Convention on Torture and customary international law. The principle of non-refoulement, which forbids the return of a true victim to their persecutor, is a jus cogens principle of international law, therefore it is something from which a state cannot derogate, irrespective of the purported crime of the person in question.

One common problem the Uyghur refugees are facing is that state authorities are unaware of the realities that, for example, Uyghurs face on the ground once they have been returned, especially if they have been involved in pro-democracy and human rights activism in their host country or when they were in China, as in the cases above. In this vein, Sweden and other states should take stock of the fact that the whereabouts and conditions remain unknown of two Uyghurs deported from Sweden in January 2012.