01/05/2022, 16.05
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Atrocities in Xinjiang: Uyghurs go to court in Turkey against 112 Chinese nationals

Charges include genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity. The action follows inaction by international bodies. Turkish citizens are among the Uyghurs imprisoned in China. The initiative will have little practical effect, but it creates a political problem for Erdogan.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A group of 19 Uyghurs living in Turkey have filed a criminal complaint against Chinese officials for genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government is accused by many parties of atrocities against Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and other provinces of China.

The petition, which was presented to a Turkish prosecutor, concerns the fate of 116 Uyghurs, including Turkish citizens, who, according to the applicants, are held in Chinese prisons. It demands that 112 Chinese nationals be put on trial, including Chinese Communist Party officials, directors and officers in charge of prison camps.

Lawyer Gulden Sonmez said the move was necessary because international bodies have failed to act so far, Reuters reports.

According to the United Nations, several humanitarian organisations and world media, since 2017 Chinese authorities have imprisoned about 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in Xinjiang concentration camps.

The claims are based on official Chinese documents and direct testimony from former inmates and prison guards.

They cite a range of human rights violations, such as torture and other inhuman treatment, forced sterilisation, rape and forced separation of minors.

China has rejected the accusations, claiming that the camps in Xinjiang are vocational centres, part of a programme to reduce poverty and fight terrorism and separatism.

Although Turkish law recognises universal jurisdiction, the complaint brought by the group of Uyghur exiles will have no practical effect, as China will refuse to cooperate. But it could have political repercussions for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

About 50,000 Uyghurs live in Turkey. The Turkish government has been accused of deporting Uyghur refugees to China in exchange for financial aid from Beijing, which Erdogan denies.

Due to his ambiguous policy vis-à-vis Uyghurs in China, the Turkish leader is often under attack from the opposition.

In October however, Turkey together with 42 other countries signed a statement to the United Nations condemning China for its actions in Xinjiang. This is the first time that the Turkey has supported such a declaration.

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