East Turkestan: WUC Honours Extradited Uyghur Refugee Victims
On UN International Refugee Day (20 June), WUC remembers the Uyghur victims of illegal extraditions, but also the conditions which force Uyghurs to flee the human rights violations they have endured in the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the conditions to which they are forcefully returned.
Below is an article published by the World Uyghur Congress:
At a time when the pressures of the global economic crisis are continuing to take their toll, it is as important as ever that the international community steadfastly uphold its obligation to protect those in recognised danger of being persecuted, tortured or executed upon their return. Yet all too often the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is witness to illegal extraditions from countries to the PRC, where they have gone on to be disappeared, tortured, and kept in cruel and degrading situations in contravention of fundamental international human rights norms.
Two of the most high profile cases are those of Ershidin Israel, extradited from Kazakhstan on 30 May 2011, and that of 20 Uyghurs (including children) from Cambodia on 19 December 2009, both of whom were illegally deported to the PRC. Mr Israel remains imprisoned and his whereabouts unknown, with reports suggesting that he has been tortured.
The PRC has repeatedly failed to disclose full information about his condition and whereabouts, nor cooperate fully with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) who, along with Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued an urgent action on 29 July 2011 concerning his forced deportation.
Likewise, Cambodia illegally extradited 20 Uyghurs to the PRC amid an international outcry against the move. After 3 of the original 20 Uyghurs were released, the remaining 17 are either detained under lengthy and harsh prison sentences or disappeared. At the time, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Dr. Nowak stated that their forcible return, “is a blatant violation of Cambodia’s obligations under the principle of non-refoulement as stipulated in article 3 of the UN Convention against torture.”
“The situation is aggravated by the fact that I had reminded the Government of Cambodia beforehand by means of an urgent communication of their international obligations,” Dr Nowak continued. The Cambodia Daily news agency recently attempted to obtain information on the case from Mak Sambath, Deputy Chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Commission, though their calls went unanswered.
But there remain many other concerning cases. As recently as this year, it was revealed that 6 Uyghur men had been forcibly returned to the PRC from Malaysia under the cover of the night on 31 December 2012, in spite of having their refugee status being reviewed by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees. Their whereabouts, condition and fate remain unknown.
WUC President Ms Rebiya Kadeer said on the International Refugee Day that, “Uyghurs, and Uyghur refugees, are at increasing risk of egregious human rights violations, including the use of torture, enforced disappearances, detention of political prisoners and the use of the death sentence. The international community must ensure that it protects Uyghur refugees in view of these well documented human rights violations.”
The situation facing the Uyghur diaspora and those seeking political asylum also needs to be addressed, as cracks in the safety of Uyghur refugees have been severely compromised by espionage both within the community and the asylum procedures. In the past few years, two people have been arrested and sentenced in Sweden and at the Chinese consulate in Munich respectively, where the largest Uyghur exile community lives, for espionage. It was also revealed recently that two Uyghur language interpreters (link in Dutch) had been passing on information on Uyghur asylum cases to the Chinese authorities in The Netherlands, where there have been several reports over the years of espionage activity. “In no place in the world are Uyghurs safe from the scope of the Chinese authorities, and the international community must take stock of this,” Ms Kadeer added.
Protections of refugees via the principle of non-refoulement have a longstanding and well established tradition within international law, and are considered non-derogable. Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly affirms that, "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. This sets the guiding principle for the adoption of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1984 Torture Convention, which clearly outlined states' responsibilities to ensure that refugees are not returned to states where they risk facing death, persecution, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment upon their return.
About the WUC
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is an international umbrella organization that represents the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkestan and abroad and promotes Uyghur human rights and a peaceful and non-violent solution based on rule of law for the conflict in East Turkestan.