The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced Monday it will not investigate China’s reported detention of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in a setback for human rights activists pushing for prosecution.
Prosecutors declined to pursue an investigation into allegations of “genocide and crimes against humanity” as the alleged crimes were “committed solely by nationals of China within the territory of China” and the communist regime is not an ICC member, The New York Times reported.
“This precondition for the exercise of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction did not appear to be met with respect to the majority of the crimes alleged in the communication,” read a report published Monday by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. China is one of 42 countries that are not a state party to the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty that established the ICC in 2002.
— Int’l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) December 14, 2020
A team of British lawyers representing two Uighur activist groups filed a complaint against China in July urging the ICC to formally open an investigation. The nearly 80-page filing also called on the ICC to investigate more than 30 senior Chinese Communist Party leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Head lawyer Rodney Dixon argued the case circumvents jurisdiction issues as it centers on 19 victims allegedly abducted from Cambodia and Tajikistan — both ICC members — and sent to detention camps in China, according to The New York Times. (RELATED: US Joins Nearly 40 Countries To Criticize China For ’21st Century Holocaust’)
Prosecutors argued that the evidence presented did not meet the requirements of a “crime against humanity” as established by the Court. “Not all conduct which involves the forcible removal of persons from a location necessarily constitutes the crime of forcible transfer or deportation,” the ICC report read.
The ICC report also noted that the plaintiffs submitted “a request for reconsideration … on the basis of new facts or evidence.” Lawyers and human rights groups said they were still hopeful the court would open an investigation after considering new evidence, according to The New York Times.
“We will be providing highly relevant evidence that will permit this to happen in the coming months,” Dixon told the Guardian. “We are engaging with the office of the prosecutor as these proceedings go on with the aim of opening a full investigation.”
The Chinese government has implemented strict measures in the northwest region of Xinjiang for several years. Up to 2 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have been forced into re-education camps, according to a 2018 United Nations estimate first reported by Reuters. (RELATED: ‘Uighur Alarms’ Just The Latest In Long List Of China’s Worst Human Rights Abuses)
China has consistently rejected evidence of widespread repression against Uighurs and other groups. “Xinjiang fully implements the policy of freedom of religious belief,” China’s foreign ministry said in a report earlier this year. “Xinjiang has never curtailed the freedom of travel of Uighur people or people of any other ethnic groups.”