It is alleged that the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) has and continues to perpetrate the most serious of international crimes against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslims in the Uyghur region of North West China.
In June 2020 Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim Populations. The Uyghur Tribunal (“Tribunal”) was launched on 3 September 2020 with assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the Coalition for Genocide Response.
The Tribunal will act wholly independently although it will continue to benefit from evidence provided by a range of organisations.
There will be two sets of Hearings, at which witnesses will present live evidence. These will be open to the public and streamed live.
The first hearings will be from 4 to 7 June 2021, and the second hearings will be from 10 to 13 September 2021.
If it were realistically possible to bring the PRC to any formal international court – in particular to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – there would be no need for the establishment of a people’s tribunal.
There is no such possibility not least because China/the PRC, although a signatory to and ratifier of the Genocide Convention, has entered a reservation against ICJ jurisdiction. There is no known route to any other court that can deal with the issues before the tribunal.
The Uyghur Tribunal, which has no powers of sanction or enforcement, will confine itself to reviewing evidence in order to reach an impartial and considered judgment on whether international crimes are proved to have been committed by the PRC.
It will be for States, international institutions, commercial companies, art, medical and educational establishments and individuals to determine how to apply the Tribunal’s Judgment, whatever it may be, in their dealings with the PRC. This could include, but is not limited to, trade and other sanctions including against individuals, proscribing the sale of technologies, surveillance and medical equipment and the declaration of ineligibility for visas.
All the evidence considered by the Tribunal will form a permanent record, which may, depending on the judgment delivered, serve as a deterrent to impunity.
No present or future members of the Tribunal or the Secretariat are activists in any Uyghur cause.
Since launch the Tribunal has attracted significant press and other interest reflective of the gravity of the issue.
The Uyghurs are a predominantly Turkic Muslim group and in the Uyghur region are estimated to number upwards of twelve million people.
It has been widely reported that the PRC is detaining a significant proportion of the Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim populations in camps which the PRC says are “vocational training centres” or “re-education centres” but are widely alleged to be involuntary detention centres which some have likened to “concentration camps”.
There have been numerous other allegations of the PRC subjecting the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim Populations to killings, serious bodily or mental harm including torture, rape and other sexual violence, enslavement, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilisation, forcible transfer or deportation, apartheid, forced labour, forced organ harvesting, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural or religious heritage, persecution, forced marriages and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households.
If proved, some of these allegations could lead to the conclusion that the PRC has embarked on a campaign intended to destroy, in whole or in part, the Uyghur people and their existence as a religious, racial, national and ethnic group. Such a finding would constitute the commission of Genocide as defined in Article 2 of the Convention of 1948 to which the PRC is a signatory and ratifying state. Acts arising from or incidental to the prohibited acts of Genocide, may also in themselves constitute crimes against humanity.