London — A “People’s Court” was set up in London on Friday to assess whether China’s alleged infringement of Uighurs was a genocide.
Chair Jeffrey Nice said at a four-day hearing, more than 30 witnesses would make “significant” claims against Chinese authorities.
A court of lawyers, scholars and businessmen has no support from the British government or the power to sanction or punish China. However, the organizers hope that the process of disclosing evidence will force international action to address alleged abuse of the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group.
Nice, a British barrister who led the indictment of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court, said the forum “will create a perpetual motion of evidence and a record of the crimes committed.”
Funded by the World Uighur Conference and private donations, this study, including one organized in the 1960s by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to investigate US behavior in the Vietnam War, Modeled after the former “People’s Court”.
The London Court is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for alleged infringement of rights against Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim and Turkish minorities.
According to researchers, an estimated more than 1 million people (mostly Uighurs) have been trapped in re-education camps in Xinjiang intern Autonomous Region in western China in recent years. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic contraception, torture and separating children from imprisoned parents.
In April, the British Parliament, although not the British Government, declared Beijing’s policy against Uighurs equal to genocide and crimes against humanity, following Congress in Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada. The US government did the same.
The first witness to testify on Friday, Dr. Kerbinur Sidik, said guards routinely humiliated prisoners at a male camp in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where he was teaching Mandarin classes in 2016.
“The camp guards did not treat prisoners as humans. They treated them less than dogs,” she said through an interpreter.
“I will never forget what I witnessed and experienced,” she said.
Another witness, Omir Bekari, said he was detained in three camps for Uighurs and Kazakh men accused of extremism and terrorism. He said prisoners were housed up to 50 per cell, were given unknown drugs, and suffered severe physical punishment. He said some prisoners he knew had died in torture.
Court witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press before the hearing told a woman who had been forced to have an abortion six and a half months pregnant, a former doctor who spoke about strict contraceptive policies, and he “a remote border. While imprisoned in the zone, he was tortured by Chinese soldiers day and night.
Beijing flatly denies that claim. Authorities consider the currently closed camp as a vocational training center that teaches the law to support Chinese language, vocational skills, economic development and combat radicalism. Until 2016, China was hit by a wave of terrorist attacks related to the new ji.
Mr Nice said he was invited to join China, but the Chinese embassy “did not accept the letter sent and did not respond.”
The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment, but Chinese officials said the court was set up by “anti-Chinese forces” to spread the lie.
Mr Nice said governments in Western countries, including Britain, also refused to be involved.
The court plans to hold another four days of hearing in September and hopes to make a decision by the end of the year.
By Jill Laures