Ruth Ingram | Bitter Winter
A team of indefatigable legal experts are pressing ahead determined to see justice for the Uyghurs. They may have found key evidence in Tajikistan
Undeterred by two rebuffs from the International Criminal Court, in 2020 and 2021, citing lack of evidence, London-based international barrister Rodney Dixon, QC, is convinced that his latest dossier of evidence will deliver the proof demanded by the ICC to prosecute China for its crimes against Uyghurs.
The well-publicized mass detention, compulsory sterilization, cultural destruction, forced labor, and torture of the Uyghur people, among other atrocities, has not been enough to secure a conviction against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the world courts. Even a genocide determination by the Uyghur Tribunal in 2021 failed to tip the scales because it bedfellows China and both have the power of veto at the UN, and Beijing is not a signatory to the ICC.
A way around this under ICC rules, however, is if a crime starts in ICC territory before proceeding to China, the court has jurisdiction to prosecute and on this basis, Mr Dixon and his team have found enough new evidence for an immediate investigation. Lack of proof was cited for its refusal so far to open a case, but a firsthand witness has now come forward to testify to his deportation to China from a third country, his detention in an internment camp, interrogation, and torture, before his escape from China in 2018.
According to Mr. Dixon, there is clear evidence that ”the Chinese Government is implementing a policy of rounding up Uyghurs and other ethnically Turkic people from outside China, including ICC member States such as neighboring Tajikistan, and forcefully deporting them back to China,” where they are subjected to genocidal acts and crimes against humanity.
The new witness has produced clear evidence of CCP intent to terrify and intimidate inmates during their incarceration.
Camp detainees were browbeaten daily, according to the witness. They were threatened and told that they would be hounded by the Chinese wherever they went, even if they tried to escape abroad. They would be tracked down and forced to return. Names of “wanted” Uyghurs were broadcast on televisions inside the camp alongside announcements and images of people who had been successfully forced back to China. Inmates were promised rewards for information leading to their capture and those who had been to Tajikistan were singled out for special treatment and arrest.
The witness described how he and those detained with him were subject to lengthy interrogations, long spells locked in a “tiger chair,” shocked with electric prods, and injected with unknown substances.
Mr. Dixon pointed out that the “rounding up” strategy was characteristic of authorities seeking to destroy in whole or in part another racial, ethnic, or religious group. He compared the tactic to victims of other genocides who were also corralled from their homes and deported en masse to the territory of the perpetrators, where they were ripe for targeting.
The new testimony backs up their previous submissions detailing forced repatriations. Chinese officials frequently contact a victim’s family in China followed by repercussions if they fail to return. Arrangements are made with a host country to refuse visa extensions and send them back, thus confirming suspicions that Uyghur exiles are under close surveillance wherever they are and that often foreign governments are in league with the CCP in the process.
Tajikistan, an ICC member state, but one that is beholden to Beijing both economically and militarily, has been one of the main culprits in rendition and with the benefit of new evidence, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has been urged to investigate.
Two other Uyghurs, now Istanbul-based, have come forward with fresh evidence. Before they fled Tajikistan in 2018, they were told by Tajik police there were plans to return them to China because they were Uyghur. “It does not matter if you have a valid visa,” they had said, “we must send all Uyghurs back. We have been moving a lot of Uyghurs to China already, we will do the same with you.” One of the escapees who fled Tajikistan through Uzbekistan gave evidence saying, “everybody knows that flying directly from Tajikistan is not safe: they can deport you from Tajik airports.”
Rodney Dixon’s legal case has been bolstered by the recent cache of leaked “Xinjiang Police Files,” published by Adrian Zenz. Top Chinese officials have been shown to be behind the policies, and the files show clearly that Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have been primary instigators.
Dixon’s new submission to the ICC has also highlighted the disinterest and lack of commitment of international bodies, particularly the UN, in getting justice for the Uyghurs. Citing the recent visit of Michelle Bachelet to the region, he was disappointed that in comparison with the human rights interest for Ukraine and the determination to investigate atrocities of war, the efforts on behalf of the Uyghurs were desultory.
“The gravity of mass deportations and disappearances has rightly been recognized by the ICC Prosecutor in stating that his Office will gather evidence of Ukrainians being sent into Russia,” he said. “Similarly such evidence should be assembled and reviewed by the ICC for Uyghurs and others being forced into China from ICC territories.”
Salih Hudayer, the Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, whose group initiated the ICC case, said, ”We are running out of time. If the ICC does not act soon to open this investigation there may no longer be any Uyghurs left to help. Our people are being killed, tortured, and brutalized and the world is just watching as it happens. We need action urgently.”