The International Criminal Court has rejected calls of exiled Uighur Muslims to conduct an investigation into China’s involvement in alleged genocide and other crimes against the minority community.
In a report on Monday, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that it cannot act on the case as the alleged crimes took place in the territory of China, which does not come under the court’s jurisdiction.
The exiled Uighurs had on July 6 submitted a communication to The Hague-based court, alleging that Chinese officials were responsible for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uighurs. The crimes include murder, deportation, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, torture, enforced sterilisation, persecution, enforced disappearance among others. The communication requested action, saying that the crimes also occurred in part on the territories of Tajikistan and Cambodia, which are parties to court, the report said.
“It was alleged that the crimes occurred in part on the territories of ICC States Parties Cambodia and Tajikistan as some of the victims were arrested (or ‘abducted’) there and deported to China as part of a concerted and widespread [means] of persecution and destruction of the Uighur community,” the report said.
However, the prosecutor pointed out that while the transfer of people raised concerns with respect to their conformity with national and international laws, including those regarding human rights and refugees, the case did not amount to crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the court.
“Not all conduct which involves the forcible removal of persons from a location necessarily constitutes the crime of forcible transfer or deportation,” the report said.
The exiled Uighurs have requested the prosecutor’s office to reconsider the case on the basis of new facts or evidence, the report added. Lawyers representing the Uighurs said that they were hopeful that the court would open the case when new evidence comes to light, according to The New York Times. “We have explained we’ve been hampered by Covid-19 restrictions,’’ said Rodney Dixon, the lead lawyer in the case. “The prosecutor needs further and concrete evidence from Cambodia and Tajikistan to establish jurisdiction, and we will be providing that early in the year.”
Members of the Uighur community expressed dissatisfaction on Tuesday with the court’s decisions. “The ICC [International Criminal Court] was formed for one and only one reason: to confront the most horrific international crimes,” said Fatimah Abdulghafur, a Uighur poet and activist. “The atrocities of the Chinese regime toward Uighurs are countless.”
According to the United Nations, at least 10 lakh ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim communities have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang province, to forcibly stop them from following Islamic traditions and integrate them into the majority Han population. However, China claims it is providing vocational training and discouraging religious extremism.
Beijing has also faced international condemnation for its alleged treatment of the members of the Muslim community. It has repeatedly denied the allegations. In September, the United States had blocked the import of certain products from certain manufacturing facilities in northeast China over their suspected use of forced labour by Uighurs.
The US, the United Kingdom and Canada had in August expressed concerns about religious oppression in China as well as Pakistan during a meeting on the safety of religious minorities in armed conflict.
Barcelona’s footballer Antoine Griezmann had last week said he was ending his sponsorship contract with Huawei over reports the Chinese telecom company was involved in the surveillance of Uighur Muslims. In the same week, Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, had expressed support for Uighurs in Xinjiang and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them.