Weekly Roundup: 7th November 2022: UN Xinjiang Human Rights Concerns

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UN Xinjiang Human Rights Concerns

Taiwo Oshodi

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council voted against debating human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region that were brought to light by High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet’s, report earlier this year.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is the only region in China with a majority Muslim population. Early in 2014 the Chinese government began what it called a ‘campaign against terrorism’ in Xinjiang, but Michelle Bachelet’s report claimed that the Chinese government’s broad definition of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ encompassed activity beyond demonstratable intentions to engage in terrorism, including potentially legitimate forms of protest.

In 2017, concerns were raised when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights started receiving reports of increased disappearances of people from predominantly Muslim minority communities in Xinjiang, and in 2018 the introduction of ‘re-education’ camps was reported. In response, Human Rights Watch reported that the Chinese Government’s actions in the region constituted a targeted attack on Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, and argued that the anti-terrorism doctrine was being used to justify crimes against humanity – a violation of international law – in Xinjiang. 

So, what happens moving forwards? What exactly constitutes ‘crimes against humanity’ is complex. The exact parameters are codified in international treaties like the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993), The Statute of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (1994), and the most and most expansive in listing perpetrating actions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998). Yet the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no enforcement body, relying instead on cooperation with countries across the globefor making arrests, freezing assets and enforcing sentences.

For more information on human rights law, you can read our human rights practice area guide here.