What is next for the atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang?

Read the new piece from our co-founder Dr Ewelina U Ochab about what is next for the atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

A UN mechanism to collect and preserve evidence of the atrocities against the Uyghurs is the next crucial step and one that cannot be postponed. Without securing this evidence now, the prospects of justice in the future are zero.

Dr Ewelina U. Ochab, ‘What is next for the atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang?’, (OxHRH Blog, May 2021), <https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/what-is-next-for-the-atrocities-against-uyghurs-in-xinjiang>

Read it here: What is next for the atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang?

The Use of Starvation Against the People of Tigray

Lord Alton and the Coalition for Genocide Response invite you to a webinar on: 

The Use of Starvation Against the People of Tigray 

5:00-6:00 PM BST on 22 June 2021

Zoom 

Armed conflict and mass atrocities have destroyed Tigray’s economy and food system and so pose a threat of famine. 5.7 million people are affected by this crisis, with the United Nations estimating that 4.5 million are ‘in need.’ 

Starvation of civilians is often used as a method of warfare, and as such may constitute a war crime. It is crucial to consider whether this is the case in Tigray and if so, what should be the responses. Also, the use of starvation may be seen imposing conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of a protected group in whole or in part, as per Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and as such, where there is a risk of genocide, States should trigger the duty to protect. 

The panellists will discuss the issue of starvation as a war crime or as a genocidal method and the needed responses from States and the international community. 

Speakers include: 

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench Peer at the UK House of Lords

Alex de Waal, Executive director of the World Peace Foundation and research professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University

Aarif Abraham, barrister, Garden Court North Chambers 

Further speakers will be announced shortly. Please register here: https://StarvationInTigray.eventbrite.co.uk 

The Other Pandemic: Rape and Sexual Violence in Conflict

Lord Alton of Liverpool and the Coalition for Genocide Response invite you to a webinar on

The Other Pandemic: Rape and Sexual Violence in Conflict

5:00-6:00 PM BST on 21 June 2021

Zoom

The use of rape and sexual violence is a pandemic that is yet to be addressed comprehensively. As it continues to be used across several conflicts, there is little hope that the crime will ever be adequately addressed, let alone prevented. Tigray, Cameroon, Myanmar, Syria and Iraq are only a few examples where predominantly women and girls have been subjected to rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, and as a means to hurt and humiliate them and the whole communities. 

19 June marks the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The day was established by the UN General Assembly in 2015 to ‘raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.’ 

Marking the UN day, the speakers will raise some of the recent cases of rape and sexual violence in conflict and discuss what is urgently needed to address them, including by combating impunity at the domestic and international level and providing survivors with assistance.

Speakers include:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench Peer at the UK House of Lords

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Labour Peer at the UK House of Lords, Director of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute

Igor Cvetkovski, Senior Advisor on Reparations, Global Survivors Fund

Please register here: https://RapeInWarPandemic.eventbrite.co.uk

‘A Tigrayan womb should never give birth’: The War Waged Against Tigrayan Women

On 17 May 2021, the Coalition for Genocide Response joined Lord Alton of Liverpool and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea and organised an important webinar about the use of rape and sexual violence in Tigray.

“Our problem is with your womb. Your womb gives birth to Woyane [a derogatory term used to refer to the TPLF]. A Tigrayan womb should never give birth” a Tigrayan woman was told after she was gang-raped and mutilated. Hers is just one of many similar reports emerging daily from Tigray. This suggests that rape and sexual violence against Tigrayan women are a commonly used weapon of the war – and might even be reaching the threshold for being a genocidal act.

During this webinar, the panellists discussed the situation of Tigrayan women, considered the nature of the atrocities and the needed responses.

Speakers included:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench Peer at the UK House of Lords

Professor Mukesh Kapila CBE, Professor Emeritus, Global Health & Humanitarian Affairs, University of Manchester

Lucy Kassa, freelance journalist

Sally Keeble, former Labour MP, Minister

and

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London.

Watch it here:

The Trafficking of North Korean Women To China

On 27 April 2021, the Coalition for Genocide Response joined Lord Alton of Liverpool and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to discuss the issue of human trafficking of North Korean women to China and its links to genocide.

Reportedly, tens of thousands of North Korean women and girls are being trafficked into China and sold into the sex trade. The business of the sale of North Korean women is worth an estimated $105 million annually. It is a business that will not cease on its own.

The trafficking of North Korean women to China is followed by several crimes. Reports suggest that once trafficked, North Korean women in China are subjected to systematic rape, sexual slavery, sexual abuse, prostitution, cybersex, forced marriage and forced pregnancy.

When caught, these women would be returned to North Korea where they would face appalling treatment. Where North Korean women are pregnant with Chinese men, they would be subjected to forced abortion in North Korea. Infanticide is not uncommon either.

In 2014, Hogan Lovells published their legal opinion, suggesting that the practice of forced abortions and infanticide of half-Chinese children may amount to genocide. Seven years later, this practice continues.

The panellist discussed the issue of trafficking and associated crimes and consider what can be done to address the issue. Speakers included:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench Peer at the UK House of Lords, Co-chair of the APPG on North Korea and patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Jihyun Park, North Korean defector and Human Rights Activist.

Watch it here:

The UK Parliament Must Recognise The Atrocities Against the Uyghurs For What They Are – Genocide

On 22 April 2021, the UK House of Commons will have the opportunity to set the record straight and recognise the China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities as genocide. The backbench debate is only the second time the UK House of Commons is asked to recognise ongoing atrocities as genocide, with the first being in the case of Daesh atrocities against Yazidis, Christians and others, in response to an Early Day Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP in April 2016. 

Parliamentarians can and must recognise atrocities for what they are – call them by their name – and so put pressure on the UK Government to act accordingly. 

Do China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs amount to genocide? In February, we wrote to The Economist to challenge its piece suggesting that “Genocide” is the wrong word for the horrors of Xinjiang, making several erroneous claims. As these continue to be repeated, and some of them used by the Chinese Government, it is crucial to challenge these misconceptions. Indeed, at least two detailed legal analyses by independent experts have made a clear case for the recognition of genocide.

A common refrain is that genocide is not a word that should be used lightly. We agree.  However, this does not mean that it should not be used. Indeed, where the elements of the legal definition are met (as per Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – the Genocide Convention), the crimes should be labelled exactly for what they are. 

‘Genocide’ as defined by the Genocide Convention and customary international law does not require the immediate destruction of the group by ‘mass slaughter.’ Destruction of the group (in whole or in part) must be the intended result, but this may be achieved in a number of ways. In the case of the Uyghurs, in terms of the legal test, substantiated allegations include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (including physical abuse, rape and sexual violence), deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to destroy the group (by way of concentration camps, forced labour and other atrocities as a whole), imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (by way of various practices including forced sterilisations, forced abortions, and also rape), and forcibly transferring Uyghur children to another group. 

All these acts are supported by evidence of the specific intent to destroy this ethno-religious group – a group protected by the Genocide Convention. This is in addition that to the fact that the specific intent can be inferred from the pattern and systemic nature of the atrocities. 

Currently publicly available evidence comes from survivors and witnesses, researchers, NGOs, investigative journalists and others. While there have been no independent investigations of the situation of the Uyghurs on-the-ground in Xinjiang, this is because the Chinese Government prevents unfettered access to the region – conduct surely prejudicial to China. A UN investigation could be conducted effectively without access to the region as has been done in the cases of Syria and Myanmar. The UN could establish a mechanism to investigate the atrocities, draw conclusions and collect and preserve evidence for future prosecutions. 

At this time China simply denies all allegations and rejects suggestions for an independent investigation. On 31 March 2021, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying rejected the allegations of genocide, arguing, among others, that ‘no State, organisation, or individual is qualified and entitled to arbitrarily determine that another country has committed genocide. In international relations, no country should use this accusation as a political label for rumour-mongering and malicious manipulation.’ This is highly erroneous. 

In a perfect world, the allegations of genocide against the Uyghurs would be considered by an international court or tribunal or a specially established UN investigative mechanism, but this has not been done and it is unlikely to happen, given China’s powerful position at the UN and reservations to, or non-membership of, relevant treaties. This, however, does not preclude States making their own determination and acting accordingly. In fact, States, as the duty holder under the Genocide Convention, must make such determinations to inform their responses. 

Specifically, the Genocide Convention imposes duties upon States parties to prevent and punish genocide in addition not to commit or be complicit with genocide. The duty to prevent genocide is extensive and critical. As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro clarified, the duty to prevent: ‘Arise[s] at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.’ 

If this is the case, States must conduct their monitoring, analysis and determination of at least the serious risk of genocide very early on – in order to engage their duties. This means that States need to consider the legal elements of genocide and/or risk factors, as set out, for example, in the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and the Jacob Blaustein Institute’s Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide. Where, after the analysis of all relevant evidence, states conclude that the evidence indicates commission of genocide or a serious risk of genocide, their failure to act incurs their own responsibility.  The obligation to prevent exists distinct from other obligations and does not simply disappear for failure to draw a conclusion in the face of available evidence.   

It accomplishes nothing to reject such an analysis of the evidence and using euphemisms out of fear of upsetting the state perpetrating genocide. There are practical effects of a determination. Indeed, and again as per the ICJ, once the state learns or should have learned about the serious risk of genocide, ‘from that moment onwards, if the State has available to it means likely to have a deterrent effect on those suspected of preparing genocide, or reasonably suspected of harbouring specific intent (dolus specialis), it is under a duty to make such use of these means as the circumstances permit.’ 

The atrocities against the Uyghurs must be recognised for what they are and acted upon. Refusal to face the facts and draw conclusions resolves nothing and absolves no one. Indeed, it has too often been the case that the world watches genocides take place in violation of our own legal and moral duties.

In a world where genocide still occurs, despite the promises of Never Again, wilful blindness and inaction is not an option. We need to ensure that we are equipped to prevent genocide as the cost of allowing it is too great: it is the cost of lives and it is also the cost of our humanity.

Dr Ewelina U. Ochab, Co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response 

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

Professor John Packer, Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University

Professor Zachary D. Kaufman, University of Houston Law Centre

Michael Polak, Barrister, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, Committee World Uyghur Congress London Office 

Mark Hill QC, Vice-President, International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies

Nury Turkel, Attorney and Board of the Uyghur Human Rights Project

Marking The International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations

On 24 March 2021, Lord Alton of Liverpool and the Coalition for Genocide Response organised a webinar marking the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

The International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims aims to honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice. It also aims to pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to and lost their lives in the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all.

The panellists discussed the important role journalists and witnesses who speak up play in protecting the human rights of all.

Speakers included:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench Peer, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Alex Crawford OBE, Special Correspondent for Sky News.

Watch it here:

Spotlight on the Tigray Region of Ethiopia: The Need for an Urgent Response

On 16 March 2021, Lord Alton of Liverpool and the Coalition for Genocide Response hosted a webinar entitled focused on the situation Tigray Region of Ethiopia.

In recent months reports have emerged highlighting the deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. In August 2020, Genocide Watch issued a genocide warning for Ethiopia In October 2020, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, warned about the high risk of further atrocities. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issue warnings of atrocity crimes in Tigray. At the end of January 2021, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten reported on serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. In March 2021, we now hear reports of starvation being used as a weapon of war against the targeted communities.

The dire situation in the Tigray region requires an urgent response. Panellists discussed the situation in the Tigray Region and considered steps that must be taken by the UK, other states and international bodies.

Speakers included:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench Peer, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Conservative Peer, former Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa

Lord Boateng, Labour Peer, former Cabinet Minister and High Commissioner to South Africa

Alex de Waal, Executive Director, the World Peace Foundation

Martin Plaut, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Professor Jan Nyssen, Ghent University

Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International

Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Watch

You can watch the video from the webinar here: