An exile group called on China Thursday to account for thousands of ethnic Uyghurs believed to be victims of enforced or involuntary disappearances in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.
Beijing is “systematically” using the tactic of enforced disappearances to silence Uyghurs who voice opposition to Beijing’s policies in the region, the exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC) said in a statement marking the U.N.’s International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
“Many Uyghurs have attempted to uncover the whereabouts, condition, and fate of their forcibly disappeared loved ones, but continually find their requests for information being rejected or ignored,” WUC President Rebiya Kadeer said.
She has estimated 10,000 Uyghurs have been forcibly disappeared since deadly violence rocked the Xinjiang region in July 2009 following long-simmering tensions between Han Chinese and Uyghurs.
Kadeer said the Chinese authorities have ignored requests for information about the missing, creating a “stubborn culture of impunity.”
China should provide reparations to the victims of the “deeply concerning” practice, the WUC said.
The practice of forced disappearances, which has also been used against other groups in China, will effectively be legalized under upcoming amendments to China’s Criminal Procedure Law, human rights groups say.
“Some of these amendments, notably Article 73 [of the revised law], will in effect legalize the already widespread of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs,” Kadeer said.
The article, which governs “residential surveillance,” sets out provisions allowing authorities to hold individuals under effective house arrest in their homes or at a “designated abode.”
The amendments, passed by the National People’s Council in March 2012, could have “drastic” consequences for Uyghurs when they take effect next year, the WUC said.
But even if the practice is effectively made legal under China’s laws, it is still a clear breach of international rights law, the group said.
China has not signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICCPED), which explicitly bans the practice, but it is a signatory of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which contains similar provisions.
“China has not ratified nor shown any interest in signing this vital human rights treaty which enshrines into international law the accepted standards states should adopt in regards to preventing such a human rights violation,” the WUC said.
It urged the international community to press China to ratify the ICCPED, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 and went into force in 2010, is designed as an international instrument to prevent governments from carrying out forced disappearances.
The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is marked to honor the missing victims and to highlight the seriousness of the offense.
“It is an act that negates the very essence of humanity and is contrary to the deepest values of any society,” a group of independent United Nations experts said in a statement Thursday.
Reported by Rachel Vandenbrink.