LONDON – A ‘Volkshof’ set up to assess whether China’s alleged rights violations against the Uyghur people were a genocide opened in London on Friday, with witnesses alleging that prisoners in detention camps for Uyghurs regularly humiliated, tortured and abuse is.
President Geoffrey Nice said more than three dozen witnesses would make “serious” allegations against Chinese authorities during four days of hearings.
The tribunal, made up of lawyers, academics and businessmen, has no support from the British government or any power to punish or punish China. However, organizers hope that the process of interpreting public evidence will force international action to tackle alleged abuses against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.
Nice, a British lawyer who led the prosecution of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court, said the forum would create a permanent system of evidence and, if found, commit a crime. ‘
The study is funded by the World Uyghur Congress and individual donations, and is based on previous “international tribunals”, including one organized by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1960s to represent American actions in the Vietnam War. to investigate.
The London Tribunal is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for alleged violations of rights against the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkish minorities.
An estimated 1 million people or more – mostly Uighurs – have been locked up in re-education camps in the western Xinjiang region of China, according to researchers. Chinese authorities are accused of instituting forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from imprisoned parents.
In April, the British parliament – though not the British government – followed legislators in Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada by declaring that Beijing’s policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The US government did the same.
The first witness to testify on Friday said teacher Qelbinur Sidik said the guards regularly humiliated prisoners in a men’s camp in Xinjiang, where she taught Mandarin lessons in 2016.
‘Guards in the camp did not treat the prisoners as human beings. “They were treated less like dogs,” she said through an interpreter.
“The things I saw and experienced I can not forget,” she said.
Another witness, Omir Bekali, said he was detained in three camps for Uyghur and Kazakh men accused of extremism and terrorism. He said that prisoners were detained up to 50 per cell, that they had been given unknown drugs, and that they had been severely punished. He said some prisoners he knew died under torture.
Tribunal witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press before the hearings included a woman who said she was 6 1/2 months pregnant until an abortion, a former doctor who spoke of draconian contraception policies, and a former detainee claiming to have been “tortured day and night” by Chinese soldiers while imprisoned in the remote border region.
Beijing completely rejects the allegations. Officials have characterized the camps, which they say are now closed, as vocational training centers to teach Chinese language, work skills and the law to support economic development and the fight against extremism. China has seen a wave of Xinjiang-related terrorist attacks through 2016.
Nice said China had been asked to participate, but its embassy “did not acknowledge or reply to the letters sent.”
The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment, but officials in China said the tribunal was set up by “anti-China forces” to spread lies.
Western governments, including Britain, also did not want to get involved, Nice said.
The tribunal plans to hold four more days of hearings in September, and hopes to rule by the end of the year.
By Jill Lawless