Lawyers representing two Uighur activist organizations have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Chinese officials of genocide and other crimes against humanity against Uighur Muslim minority groups. The complaint will be the first legal proceeding challenging the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP) ongoing brutal treatment of the Uighurs, which dates back to 1884.
The Monday filing names more than 30 Chinese officials — including Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping — responsible for illegally arresting and deporting Uighurs from Cambodia and Tajikistan as part of a national cultural extermination campaign.
Despite evidence supporting these allegations, the ICC cannot exercise jurisdiction over China because China is not a party to the Rome Statute governing the ICC. However, international lawyer Rodney Dixon, who is currently leading the case, said in a recent JURIST interview that jurisdiction “should not be a barrier at all” because the unlawful acts occurred in two Rome Statute member states outside of China: Cambodia and Tajikistan.
An essential element of the crime — rounding up people and deporting them — has taken place there, and the evidence we’ve got shows that they are being deported into China for the specific purpose of imprisoning them or exposing them to other crimes with the purpose of [diluting] and destroying the group . . . The court has jurisdiction in this case; there’s no doubt about that.
Establishing jurisdiction is the first step in a potentially lengthy criminal proceeding. If ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda approves the investigation, along with supporting evidence, the court may prosecute Chinese officials involved in the campaign. If the ICC convicts the government officials, the court will issue a prison sentence, and will then order reparations for victims and victims’ families.
If the case proceeds to trial, it will reinforce prior ICC precedent — namely the 2018 Rohingya ruling — establishing that the court could exercise jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct occurs in a member state’s territory.
Opening the investigation would offer victims a “clear legal pathway to justice.” Dixon continued:
This is looking at individual . . . responsibility for those who . . . have been involved in planning, ordering, overseeing, and directing the campaign, so it’s certainly not a case against China as a whole or all of its people; it’s against those particularly who are responsible for this campaign waged against the Uighurs and other Turkic people.
Dixon remains hopeful that the court will issue an expedited decision regarding the investigation within the next few months.