A civilian organized tribunal held June 4 to June 8, 2021 in London sought to determine whether reported human rights violations by the Chinese state against its Uyghur population constitutes a genocide.
The tribunal, organized at the request of the World Uyghur Congress, one of Freedom United’s partners in the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region, consisted of nine members and was chaired by British human rights lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. This was the first of two hearings. The second will be held in September and a final verdict is expected by December.
The tribunal is not legally binding, but organizers hope that the findings, which include public testimony from 30 witnesses, including survivors and relatives of detained persons, and experts, will provide further impetus for global action to end the persecution of Uyghurs in China.
A few months ago, Human Rights Watch released a report confirming serious human rights abuses in the Uyghur Region including strong evidence for forced labor, detention, torture, and family separation. The report was co-authored by Beth Van Schaack, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School.
Speaking to Newsweek, Van Schaack shared her thoughts on the tribunal,
“It will have great symbolic value, I hope, in further shedding light on the type of abuse that’s happening within Xinjiang.
Because China is so big, they have outsized influence in the international community, and so the international community needs a collective response. We need to work together; it cannot be one nation here and one nation there.”
Van Schaack is particularly optimistic about the possibility of curtailing Uyghur forced labor through economic sanctions and trade restrictions. She noted that, “[F]ocusing on supply chains across the world could be an incredibly powerful lever against China and one that China will feel.”
Freedom United and our Coalition of over 180 organizations, including 70 Uyghur groups, have been urgently calling on companies to leave the Uyghur region. We also believe that ensuring supply chains are free of forced labor is one of the most effective ways of achieving change in this situation.
Further, our community has been pushing back against the mistreatment of the Uyghur people, urging the Chinese government to end the detention and forced labor of the Uyghur people, contacting fashion brands that are potentially implicated in Uyghur forced labor and writing to Apple CEO, Tim Cook, to demand that they leave the Uyghur region and cut ties with suppliers that use Uyghur forced labor.
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