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ICC Urged to Investigate China's Treatment of Uyghurs

FILE - A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng, in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 23, 2021. Rights groups have accused China of committing massive crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim populations.

A group of lawyers has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate China's treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim populations in the Xinjiang region.

The United States and other countries accuse China of subjecting those groups to genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, torture, forced sterilization, separation of children from parents and destruction of minority culture. Beijing vehemently denies all accusations of human rights abuses in the region and says that all ethnic groups in Xinjiang live happily.

The lawyers, who represent Uyghurs in exile, say that on Monday they presented the ICC with new evidence of Beijing's efforts "to round up Uyghurs in neighboring countries, including an ICC member state, and elsewhere, to force them back" to China.

"It also very sadly shows what happens to them once back in detention camps," lead lawyer Rodney Dixon said in a statement emailed to VOA. "The ICC has jurisdiction over these crimes that commence on ICC territory and continue into China, and is urged to act immediately to open an investigation."

This is the third dossier of evidence submitted to the ICC by the legal team since it filed an initial complaint two years ago.

That complaint was submitted June 6, 2020. Additional evidence was submitted July 10, 2021; November 2021; and this past Monday, according to the legal team.

After the first submission of evidence, ICC prosecutors said the court was unable to take up the case because the alleged abuses happened in China, which is not an ICC member state.

According to the lawyers, the last submission of evidence to ICC includes "firsthand evidence from a witness" who was deported to China, detained in internment camps and subjected to "interrogation and torture" before escaping from China in 2018.

"It shows that the Chinese government is implementing a policy of rounding up Uyghurs and other ethnically Turkic people from outside China, including ICC member states such as neighboring Tajikistan, and forcefully deporting them back to China," the legal team said in a statement provided to VOA.

The lawyers want the ICC to follow a precedent set when it investigated cross-border crimes committed by nonmember state Myanmar after thousands of Rohingya people were forced to flee to Bangladesh, an ICC member state.

"The gravity of mass deportations and disappearances has rightly been recognized by the ICC prosecutor in stating that his office will gather evidence of Ukrainians being sent into Russia – similarly such evidence should be assembled and reviewed by the ICC for Uyghurs and others being forced into China from ICC territories," Dixon said.

Other Uyghur witnesses who fled from Tajikistan to Turkey in 2018 described how China pressured police and immigration officials in Tajikistan to deport Uyghurs back to China.