Uyghur Groups to File Genocide Charges Against China in Argentina

A protester from the Uyghur community living in Turkey stands with flags in the Beyazit mosque during a protest against the visit of China's Foreign Minister to Turkey, in Istanbul on March 25, 2021. - Hundreds protested against the Chinese official visit and what they allege is oppression by the …
BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

The World Uyghur Congress and Uyghur Human Rights Project have begun the process of filing criminal complaints against the Chinese Communist Party for crimes against humanity and genocide in Argentina, the groups announced on Tuesday.

The Communist Party has been engaging in the genocide of the Uyghur people, a Muslim-majority ethnic group mostly based in occupied East Turkistan, since at least 2017 through the use of concentration camps to kill, torture, indoctrinate, and sterilize millions of people. Outside of the extensive East Turkistan concentration camp system, witnesses have testified that Chinese officials have sterilized entire villages full of Uyghur people in an attempt to eliminate the group. China has also sold an unknown number of Uyghurs as slaves to cotton farms and factories across the country, implicating at least 83 major multinational companies in the use of slave labor.

The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent institution founded to document and verify accusations of genocide by Uyghur survivors of the communist regime, concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” last week that China is guilty of genocide.

Genocide, and crimes against humanity, are known in international law as jus cogens norms, meaning they are crimes no matter where they are committed and any court anywhere in the world can prosecute potential acts of genocide or crimes against humanity, even when the venue in question has no direct tie to the incidents in question.

The two Uyghur groups noted in their statement announcing the legal process on Tuesday that Argentina has already agreed to take a genocide case regarding the Rohingya Muslim people of Myanmar, inspiring the move.

“The World Uyghur Congress (“WUC”) and the Uyghur Human Rights Project (“UHRP”) have instructed lawyers to prepare a universal jurisdiction criminal complaint to submit to the Federal Criminal Court of Appeals in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” their statement read in part. “Under Argentinian universal jurisdiction provisions, the Courts have jurisdictions for international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity, wherever they take place.”

The work of compiling enough evidence to ask the court in question to consider charging suspects with genocide and crimes against humanity will take months. The two groups stated that they expect to submit their work in February 2022, when Beijing is scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Human rights groups have for years urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to grant China the privilege of hosting such a prestigious event to no avail; attempts to convince participating countries to boycott out of respect for genocide victims have at press time failed.

“When sufficient evidence is before the Court, the judge can indict the defendants, issue arrest warrants, and send the case to trial,” the Uyghur groups noted.

‘The use of universal jurisdiction provisions is the next step in the path to justice for the Uyghur people and to hold to account those who are ordering the most horrendous international crimes against them,” Michael Polak, the attorney taking the lead in organizing the effort, said in a press statement on Tuesday. “The Argentinian universal jurisdiction provisions provide a golden opportunity for justice for the Uyghur people and it is clear, especially given the recent ruling in the Rohingya case, that the Argentinian courts are willing to apply their progressive laws to achieve justice for individuals facing serious repression no matter where that is taking place.”

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The effort to bring the case to Argentina follows multiple rejections of genocide evidence by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which exclusively has jurisdiction over such crimes and can prosecute accused individuals. The ICC has insisted, most recently in December 2020, that it did not have sufficient evidence to process a genocide case against Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.

The Uyghur Tribunal revealed authentic documents showing Xi personally ordering the genocide of Uyghur and other non-Han ethnic groups in East Turkistan. Xi in particular ordered underlings in speeches to Communist Party officials to eradicate religion from East Turkistan and implemented a widespread sterilization campaign to “equalize” births between Uyghurs and Han ethnic people, who are not indigenous to East Turkistan.

The documents the Uyghur Tribunal published were revealed to have been possessed by the New York Times, which omitted some key information personally implicating Xi.

The Uyghur Tribunal gave eyewitnesses and victims of the Chinese genocide a platform to detail the abuses they lived. Among the crimes the Tribunal confirmed as true were “pulling off fingernails; beating with sticks; detaining in ‘tiger chairs’ where feet and hands were locked in position for hours or days without break; confined in containers up to the neck in cold water; and detained in cages so small that standing or lying was impossible.”

“Pregnant women, in detention centres and outside, were forced to have abortions even at the very last stages of pregnancy. In the course of attempted abortions babies were sometimes born alive but then killed,” the Tribunal narrated in its judgment. “A systematic programme of birth control measures had been established forcing women to endure removal against their will of wombs and to undergo effective sterilization by means of IUDs that were only removeable by surgical means.”

As the Tribunal has no enforcement powers, its determinations have no real-world judicial application. The Tribunal’s judgment noted this and emphasized that world institutions that do have enforcement powers, like the ICC or state courts, had failed to do any of the work in evaluating genocide claims against China, leaving a void the Tribunal members sought to fill.

China is Argentina’s largest trading partner and both leftist and self-proclaimed right-wing presidents have heaped praise upon the Communist Party for supporting the political establishment. In 2018, Xi visited Argentina – offering an opportunity for the country to arrest him on genocide charges, as evidence already existed of these crimes occurring against the Uyghur people – but alleged center-right President Mauricio Macri feted him, instead. Macri bestowed the Order of the Liberator General San Martín, the nation’s highest honor, on Xi, and offered him a wide assortment of luxurious gifts that included a purebred polo horse.

Argentina’s current president, Alberto Fernández, is a far-left socialist who has enthusiastically supported the Chinese regime throughout his tenure.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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