Rights Groups Blast Uyghur Activist's Expulsion From UN Forum in New York

uyghur-dolkunisa3-051017.jpg Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa is shown in an undated photo.
Photo sent by an RFA listener

UPDATED at 10:11 A.M. on 2017-07-28

A coalition of human rights groups and organizations representing minority peoples around the world released a letter this week condemning the expulsion of a Uyghur rights activist and NGO member from a U.N. forum in April, calling the move an expression of “domination” by an unnamed U.N. member state.

Dolkun Isa, a founder of the exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), was forced from U.N. premises in New York by security guards without explanation on April 26.

Two days later, he was denied a new badge to be able to re-enter the forum, to which he had duly registered, said the May 8 letter signed by Human Rights and China, China Change, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, and other organizations.

“It is very worrying to witness once again the domination exercised by states within the UN system,” said UNPO General Secretary Marino Busdachin in an apparent reference to China, which routinely objects to political activities by ethnic Uyghurs living in exile from their traditional homeland in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Especially troubling was Isa’s removal from an event organized by the United Nations Permanent Form on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), “a crucial UN forum that gives space to indigenous peoples to voice their concerns and recommendations,” Busdachin said.

Demand for explanation

Calling on the UNPFII Secretariat to “provide a full account of the causes of this incident,” those who signed the letter also demanded “that the rights of indigenous people’s representatives to express themselves in this arena be unconditionally respected in the future.”

Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service on May 9, Isa said that the question of his expulsion from the forum has now been raised with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Hussain Zaidi, and that he has been told the matter is being discussed “at the highest level in Geneva and New York.”

“I am waiting for an answer from the OHCHR at the moment,” Isa said.

“I am obviously waiting for a positive response from them,” Isa added. “I don’t believe that my right to participate and speak at U.N. forums should be dictated by China, because this will negatively impact the U.N.’s image in the world.”

Speaking to RFA from OHCHR offices in Geneva, spokesperson Rolando Gomez declined to comment on the case in detail, saying he was unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding it.

“NGOs certainly can participate in U.N. forums,” though, he said.

“We encourage NGOs to participate.”

Reported and translated by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified a forum Dolkun Isa was denied reentry to as being hosted by the UNPO.

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