Aug 30, 2012

East Turkestan: WUC Condemns Enforced Disappearances

In light of the United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August 2012, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) has voiced its concern over an increased number of cases of enforced disappearances against members of the Uyghur community at the hands of Chinese authorities.

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

On the United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) continues to be deeply concerned for the growing trend to forcibly disappear Uyghurs who voice their legitimate political opposition to the deterioration of their freedoms and fundamental human rights. The international community must take stock of the numerous cases of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs in East Turkestan by using this day as an opportune platform to press China on this crime against humanity through diplomatic avenues and dialogue, including at the upcoming 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The 30 August was declared by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 65/2009 to be the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. It was established as a timely initiative to raise awareness of those who have been forcibly disappeared amidst increasing use of this crime against humanity, something has been systematically used against Uyghurs, in particular since a peaceful protest was brutally suppressed on 5 July 2009 in Urumqi.

On the same day as the inception of the International Day, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances came into force following the required number of signatures was reached. China has not ratified nor shown any interest in signing this vital human rights treaty which enshrines into international law the accepted standards states should adopt in regards to preventing such a human rights violation. Signing or ratifying the Convention would go some way towards showing the international community that China is serious in wanting to address and provide redress for the widespread use of enforced disappearances, as well as to illustrating a meaningful willingness to upholding the highest standards of human rights.

In March 2012, China's National People's Council passed a variety of widely-criticised amendments to its Criminal Procedure Laws, which will have drastic consequences for Uyghurs when they come into effect on 1 January 2013. WUC President Rebiya Kadeer said that, “some of these Amendments, notably Article 73, will in effect legalise the already widespread of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs. Many Uyghurs have attempted to uncover the whereabouts, condition and fate of their forcibly disappeared loved ones, but continually find their requests for information being rejected or ignored, leading to a stubborn culture of impunity.”

Although China has not signed nor ratified the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, it is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which contains many of the provisions in the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. China is also bound by international law to not undertake any measures that would run contrary to the purpose and objective of the ICCPR as a result of its signature. The passing of these Amendments to its Criminal Procedure Law is therefore in contravention to its obligations under international law.

The WUC recently published a report aiming to raise awareness of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs since the 5 July incident in Urumqi. The incident was sparked by the deaths of 17 Uyghur migrant workers in Shaoguan, South China, at the hands of their Han Chinese colleagues. The WUC noted 23 cases of Uyghurs who have been forcibly disappeared in the aftermath of the 5 July incident. Human Rights Watch reported 43 other cases in October 2009, though its Asia Director, Brad Adams, asserted that HRW's figure was “likely to be the tip of the iceberg.”

The fear of being forcibly disappeared often results in violations of other human rights due to the interconnectedness of such a human rights violation with other fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to humane conditions of detention, the right to a legal personality, right to a fair trial, right to a family life and in certain cases the right to life.

One of the cases mentioned in the WUC's report is that of Imammemet Ali, who disappeared a week after the protest commenced. Sources have come forward claiming that Imammemet has been repeatedly interrogated and tortured to the point of not being able to stand, in addition to eye-witness accounts in which a serious deterioration to his health was confirmed. the authorities have placed his family under surveillance after they sought information on his whereabouts, which remain unknown. This is one case of many that have been reported, and the WUC therefore calls on China to respond to the cases of these individuals and to provide reparation and redress to all those effected.