In a strongly-worded report, the UN said that “serious human rights violations” have been committed against the Uyghur and “other predominantly Muslim communities” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
It said that “allegations of patterns of torture, or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.”
“The extent of arbitrary detentions against Uyghur and others, in context of “restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights, enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the report said.
XINJIANG UYGHUR; RIGOROUS REVIEW
The OHCHR said that the reportwas based on a rigorous review of documentary material currently available to the Office, with its credibility assessed in accordance with standard human rights methodology.
“Particular attention was given to the Government’s own laws, policies, data and statements. The Office also requested information and engaged in dialogue and technical exchanges with China throughout the process,” they said.
It maintained that violations had taken place in the context of the Chinese Government’s assertion that it is targeting terrorists among the Uyghur minority with a counter-extremism strategy that involves the use of so-called Vocational Educational and Training Centres (VETCs), or re-education camps.
XINJIANG UYGHUR; VETC
Stating that treatment of persons held in VETC facilities was of grave concern, the OHCHR in the report said, “allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence. While the available information at this stage does not allow OHCHR to draw firm conclusions regarding the exact extent of such abuses, it is clear that the highly securitised and discriminatory nature of the VETC facilities, coupled with limited access to effective remedies or oversight by the authorities, provide fertile ground for such violations to take place on a broad scale”
XINJIANG UYGHUR; VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
The report said that all the activities that includedfar-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms are in violation of international laws and standards.
Moreover, the reportstated that the described policies and practices in XUAR have transcended borders, separating families and severing human contacts, while causing particular suffering to affected Uyghur, Kazakh and other predominantly Muslim minority families, exacerbated by patterns of intimidations and threats against members of the diaspora community speaking publicly about experiences in XUAR.
OHCHR said that the Chinese Government “holds the primary duty to ensure that all laws and policies are brought into compliance with international human rights law and to promptly investigate any allegations of human rights violations, to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and to provide redress to victims.”
XINJIANG UYGHUR; RECOMMENDATIONS
Some of the recommendations are;
Takes prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in XUAR, whether in VETCs, prisons or other detention facilities
Urgently clarifies the whereabouts of individuals whose families have been seeking information about their loved ones in XUAR, including by providing details of their exact locations and establishing safe channels of communication and travel enabling families to reunite;
Undertake a full review of the legal framework governing national security, counter-terrorism and minority rights in XUAR to ensure their compliance with binding international human rights law, and urgently repeal all discriminatory laws, policies and practices against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in XUAR, in particular those that have led to the serious human rights violations as detailed in this assessment
Promptly investigates allegations of human rights violations in VETCs and other detention facilities, including allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labour and reports of deaths in custody
Cease immediately all intimidation and reprisals against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities abroad in connection with their advocacy, and their family members in XUAR; and ensure that all citizens including of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities can hold a valid passport and travel to and from China without fear of reprisals
XINJIANG UYGHUR; CHINESE REBUTTAL
Meanwhile, China in a long and detailed response (published along with the report), said that the authorities in the Xinjiang region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law, “and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.”
China said that its counter-terrorism and “de-radicalization efforts” in the region, had been conducted according to “the rule of law” and by no means add up to “suppression of ethnic minorities.”
On the issue of the camps, Beijing responded that the VETCs are “learning facilities established in accordance with law intended for de-radicalization” and not “concentration camps”.
“The lawful rights and interests of workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are protected and there is no such thing as ‘forced labour’”, China’s statement said, adding that there had been no “massive violation of rights”.
Further, China called for the UN and other international organizations, to investigate “the human rights disasters caused, and numerous crimes committed, by the US and some other Western countries, both at home and abroad.”