International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2017: China should come clean about torture of Uyghur detainees
  • Fri, 06/23/2017 - 00:00

For immediate Release
June 23, 2017 12:05 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On December 12, 1997, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly designated June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The UN states:

Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

On International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2017, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on China to genuinely investigate persistent allegations of torture leveled at state authorities. UHRP also calls on the international community to challenge China on its record regarding the torture of Uyghur detainees.

“Days of commemoration for the victims of human rights abuses should mean something. Torture is one of the most egregious of human rights violations and contravenes all standards of behavior. On days such as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the international community should hold China accountable for its appalling record of torturing Uyghur detainees. Politics should never be a factor in standing up for the victims of China’s state violence,’ said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat in a statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “It is time for China to meet its international obligations toward its citizens. China should come clean about the documented cases of Uyghurs, and others, tortured while in detention. Only when China genuinely investigates these violations and offers proper restitution will it be able to claim any kind of moral leadership in the world.”

Despite its status as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, China continues to carry out acts of state sanctioned violence. To date, no effective mechanisms have been initiated in China to curb the practice of torture within its borders and in East Turkestan.

Uyghurs in Chinese government custody frequently suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment. In late 2005, after making his first official visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Mr. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that “torture was widespread” in China. Nowak added that there has been a “consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs.”

One of the Uyghur prisoners Nowak met in Urumchi No. 1 Prison was Muhammed Tohti Metrozi, who was deported to China by the Pakistani government in 2003 while he was preparing to leave Pakistan for Sweden through the UNHCR process. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 on charges of “splittism.” Amnesty International expressed concern over Metrozi’s case in 2003 and 2004. In 2011, Human Rights Watch listed him as an individual of concern because of his forced return to China.

Due to Metrozi’s fluency in English, Nowak could speak with him without the help of a translator. Metrozi described how he had been tortured by Chinese police and the poor conditions in the prison. After Mr. Nowak’s departure, Chinese prison authorities punished Metrozi on account of his conversation with Nowak. According to a letter sent by Metrozi’s wife and parents to a member of the Uyghur diaspora, Metrozi was tortured and beaten so badly that he was not able to move for months. The letter was forwarded to Nowak’s office. Eleven years after Nowak’s visit, Metrozi’s name appeared on a list of 11 Uyghurs whose sentences had been reduced at a prison rally on February 1, 2016.

In November 2015, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) for consideration during the 56th session of the Committee from November 9 to December 9, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. The submission documented no progress on torture of Uyghur detainees since Manfred Nowak’s visit ten years earlier.

UHRP and the WUC highlighted several cases of Uyghurs subjected to torture by the Chinese state. Among the documented Uyghur victims included were Shohret Tursun, Noor-Ul-Islam Sherbaz and Tudahun Hoshur. Suggested reforms contained in the document were a legitimate and effective complaints mechanism for victims of torture and a strict enforcement of compliance to legal procedures during criminal investigations.

In March 2017, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on the case of Uyghur business man Abdurishit Haji, who was detained by Chinese police on December 16, 2016 and died in custody on January 13, 2017. Haji’s son, Hesenjan Abdurishit, told RFA reporters Chinese authorities said the cause of his father’s death was heart failure. However, Abdurishit added he was not aware of his father having any health issues. UHRP calls for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death. 

See also:

Briefing: The United Nations and Amnesty International on Torture in East Turkestan

Systematic Torture in the People's Republic of China