A criminal complaint has been filed accusing Chinese officials of the genocide of Uyghurs and other minority groups.
Lawyers for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) submitted the complaint in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 17.
They allege that the Chinese government has committed crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in the Xinjiang province.
Beijing’s “re-education” policies in the northwestern province have been the subject of international scrutiny for several years. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was signed by President Joe Biden last December. In April a State Department report said more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of mainly Muslim groups had been arbitrarily imprisoned and subjected to forced sterilization, coerced abortions and rape.
China has denied the allegations. Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment on the Buenos Aires complaint.
Under Argentina’s constitution, courts in the South American country have jurisdiction for international crimes, such as genocide, regardless of where they take place.
The submission is the first stage of the process. Next, an appointed judge will consider the complaint and determine whether to open a case. If the judge opens a case against Chinese officials, the Uyghur groups’ lawyers have said they will submit evidence of genocide, crimes against humanity and torture.
Depending on the evidence, the judge could indict defendants as well as issuing arrest warrants and send the case to trial.
Michael Polak, a barrister based in London, said in a news release shared with Newsweek: “This is a historical moment for the Uyghur people and their pursuit of justice for the most horrendous international crimes being committed against them by the Chinese authorities.
“The mantra ‘never again’ or ‘nunca mas’ has been repeated for many years yet we have a genocide and crimes against humanity being committed against a religious and ethnic group in 2022 in an attempt to rob the Uyghurs of their rich culture and identity.”
Polak added: “International criminal law has moved towards the use of universal jurisdiction provisions that hold that certain crimes shock the conscience of mankind in such a way that they can be prosecuted within the domestic legal systems of states, no matter where those crimes take place.
“Domestic courts have stepped up to fill the void created by the vetoes of China and Russia at the Security Council, which make the creation of new international tribunals almost impossible and in recent times those who would once have enjoyed impunity have found themselves facing justice.”
Omer Kanat, executive director of the UHRP, said in the news release: “Our case demonstrates that there is nowhere to hide for regimes responsible for atrocity crimes.
“If international courts like the ICJ and ICC are still unable or unwilling to look at the evidence, it will be up to national courts to begin to bring cases against China for these crimes.”