Please raise the Uyghurs' plight during the general debate on Item 4 at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in March 2010
- Ambassador Betty E. King and Deputy Permanent Representative Douglas Griffiths
- United States of America
The Uyghur people are indigenous to East Turkestan [also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China]. For many years, the Chinese government has waged an intense and often brutal campaign to repress all forms of Uyghur dissent, crack down on Uyghurs' peaceful religious activities and independent expressions of ethnicity, dilute Uyghurs' culture and identity as a distinct people, and threaten the survival of the Uyghur language. The authorities have routinely equated Uyghurs' peaceful political, religious, and cultural activities with the "three evils" – terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The authorities have also economically marginalized the Uyghurs in East Turkestan through intense and blatant racial discrimination in employment.
This is a petition addressed to two United States officials: Ambassador Betty E. King, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations in Geneva; and Mr. Douglas Griffiths, Deputy Permanent Representative of the US to the UN in Geneva. The petition asks that during the general debate on Item 4 ("Human rights situations that require the Council's attention") at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in March 2010, the United States raise the grave human rights violations that the authorities in China committed during -- and have committed in the aftermath of -- the peaceful Uyghur protest and the ethnic unrest in July 2009 in Urumchi [the regional capital of East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China)]. These rights violations have included, but have not been limited to, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary sentencing of individuals to death after trials plagued with politicization and intense strangleholds on due process, and arbitrary executions.
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has regular meetings three times each year at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. A regular meeting is currently in session during the month of March 2010. During the general debate on Item 4 ("Human rights situations that require the Council's attention"), the HRC's member States and observer States, as well as the European Union and other intergovernmental organizations, have the opportunity to take the floor and raise human rights issues of concern. During the general debate on Item 4 at the last Human Rights Council meeting in September 2009, the United States raised the issues of the July 2009 incidents in Urumchi and the aftermath. We are very grateful for this and we are asking the United States to raise the issues again.
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that during the general debate on Item 4 (“Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention”) at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in March 2010, the United States discuss the grave and egregious human rights violations that the Chinese government committed during – and has committed in the aftermath of – the peaceful Uyghur protest and the ethnic unrest that occurred in July 2009 in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan [also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China].
We greatly appreciate the United States’ reference to the July 2009 incidents and the aftermath during the general debate on Item 4 at the September 2009 UN Human Rights Council meeting. The United States stated, “We followed closely the recent disturbances in China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region and last year’s unrest in Tibetan areas. We urge the Chinese authorities, as they work to maintain order, to respect the safety and legal rights of all of China’s citizens and to make efforts to find a solution to legitimate grievances.” We ask the United States to raise these issues again at the March 2010 meeting, as the Uyghurs’ human rights situation continues to rapidly deteriorate and many major developments have
occurred since the September 2009 meeting, including but not limited to the arbitrary sentencing of at least 24 Uyghurs to death, the arbitrary execution of at least 8 of these Uyghurs, and the release of a report by Human Rights Watch on the enforced disappearances of many young Uyghur men and boys. The Uyghurs continue to desperately need the help of the United States.
We hope that the United States will use the general debate on Item 4 at the Human Rights Council meeting in March 2010 as an opportunity to raise one or more of the following issues regarding the Uyghurs:
• The Chinese authorities brutally suppressed a peaceful Uyghur protest on July 5, 2009. Numerous witness accounts reported in the media and provided to Uyghur organizations abroad indicated that security forces committed extrajudicial killings of protesters.
• The authorities have detained thousands of people in connection with the July 2009 events and arrested many of these people during mass detentions, including mass roundups of young Uyghur men. The authorities have subjected an untold number of Uyghurs to enforced disappearances. Human Rights Watch documented the enforced disappearances of 43 young Uyghur men and boys who were detained in large-scale sweeps and in targeted raids, but noted that the number of disappeared is likely significantly higher than 43. In fact, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The cases we documented are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”
• The authorities have ensured that defendants prosecuted in connection with the July 2009 events have been denied due process and the right to legal representation of their choice. The authorities’ actions in this regard have included: giving prosecutors and judges special instructions on how to handle the July 5th cases; hand-picking the judicial personnel assigned to the trials according to political criteria; warning human rights lawyers against taking protest-related cases; and making public statements that have put political pressure on courts to mete out death sentences and other severe sentences.
• The Intermediate People’s Court of Urumchi has arbitrarily sentenced at least 24 Uyghurs to death and at least 8 Uyghurs to death with a two-year reprieve, for murder or other crimes allegedly committed during the July 2009 events. In addition, many Uyghurs have been arbitrarily sentenced to life imprisonment and varying jail terms. All of the Uyghurs sentenced thus far were sentenced after non-transparent trials plagued with the aforementioned politicization and lack of due process. The appellate courts have upheld all of the sentences on which they have rendered decisions thus far and have done so after non-transparent reviews. At least 8 of the Uyghurs sentenced to death were arbitrarily executed less than four weeks after they were sentenced.
• The authorities have conflated peaceful protest on July 5th with rioting, which is consistent with the government’s routine criminalization of Uyghurs’ peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. Official statements and state media reports have suggested that some acts of peaceful protest would be formally subjected to criminal prosecution. An XUAR official acknowledged that the authorities were holding in custody people who had protested peacefully on July 5th.
• The authorities have implemented an information blackout in the region since July 2009, which among other things, has denied East Turkestan residents internet and e-mail access and international phone calling and text messaging capabilities.
Furthermore, we respectfully request that during the general debate on Item 4 at the Human Rights Council meeting in March 2010, the United States call on China to take one or more of the following actions:
• Ensure that those accused of crimes related to the events of July 2009 are afforded due process, tried in an open and fair court, and given access to legal representation of their choice;
• Impose a moratorium on executions and on the imposition of death sentences;
• Immediately and unconditionally release all those who are only alleged to have protested peacefully on July 5th;
• End arbitrary detentions and provide a full account of all of the detentions that have been carried out since July 5th, inform family members of detainees' whereabouts, and release detainees who have been held without evidence;
• Allow foreign media independent, unrestricted access to conduct reporting throughout East Turkestan and to report on trials of defendants accused of crimes related to the July 2009 events;
• Allow an independent investigation into the July 2009 incidents and invite the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and various Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts to visit East Turkestan;
• Immediately restore complete internet/e-mail access and international phone calling/text messaging capabilities in East Turkestan;
• Address the root causes of the July 5th protest and the ethnic unrest, including the severe political and religious repression and economic discrimination to which Uyghurs are subjected and the dilution of Uyghurs’ language and culture.
Thank you for your time and attention to these urgent matters.