The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) has today published a new high-level Briefing Paper on the responsibility of governments under international law in relation to the widely reported severe ill-treatment, repression and abuse of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims by China.
The report, “Responsibility of States under international law to Uyghurs and other turkic muslims in Xinjiang, China”, has been endorsed by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Lord Alton of Liverpool and has been written by leading human rights barristers in England and Wales who are members of BHRC.
As disturbing covert drone footage filmed last year resurfaces, alleged to be of hundreds of Uyghur men blindfolded and taken onto trains, this Briefing Paper is a timely and important intervention on the grave allegations of widespread and systematic persecution of the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim people in Xinjiang. It makes clear that, whilst international legal accountability for alleged crimes of the most serious order in Xinjiang may be limited owing to the multiple Chinese reservations placed on dispute resolution in international forums, alternative routes do exist which the international community can use to place pressure on China to meet its own legal obligations towards all peoples within its border. Indeed, the Paper makes plain that third party States must take all available measures to prevent any violations of international law from occurring, to seek to bring any on-going violations to an end, and to call upon China to immediately cease all and any alleged practices and policies – violating its obligations and responsibilities – towards Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.
The report provides practical next steps which governments, and in particular the UK Government, should urgently consider. These include:
- Creating and applying Magnitsky-style sanctions on individuals, whether state or non-state actors, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect the person is involved in serious human rights violations in Xinjiang;
- Actively supporting the establishment of an impartial and independent United Nations mechanism – such as a United Nations Special Rapporteur, a Panel of Experts appointed by the HRC, or a Secretary General Special Envoy – to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China.
- Using and enforcing domestic avenues of accountability, including corporate accountability relating to supply chains.
- Using those international mechanisms which may be available, as outlined in the Briefing Paper.