ICC rules out investigation into China’s forced detention of Uighurs

Prosecutors’ decision is blow to activists who hoped to use international law to highlight persecution of the Muslim minority

A demonstrator wears a mask showing solidarity with China's Uighur population.
Beijing accused of torture, forced sterilisation and ‘disappearing’ entire families
(Image credit: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided against investigating China’s mass detention of the country’s Uighur population despite exiled Muslims providing evidence of the crackdown.

Prosecutors in The Hague said “they would not, for the moment, investigate allegations that China had committed genocide and crimes against humanity” because “the alleged offences took place in China, which is not a party to the court”, The New York Times (NYT) reports.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, emphasises this reason in a newly published report that states the claimed abuses “have been committed solely by nationals of China within the territory of China”.

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The decision is a blow to activists who accuse the Beijing regime of carrying out a campaign of torture, forced sterilisation and mass surveillance against the Muslim minority.

More than a million Uighurs are being held in vast indoctrination camps in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, in western China.

Beijing insists the camps are job training centres aimed at countering religious extremism and terrorism. However, the NYT points to the “preponderance of contradictory evidence”.

Despite this week’s legal setback, lawyers representing the Uighur groups say they are hopeful that the ICC will eventually agree to open an investigation after considering new evidence.

“The prosecutor needs further and concrete evidence from Cambodia and Tajikistan to establish jurisdiction, and we will be providing that early in the year,” said Rodney Dixon, the lead lawyer in the case.

Campaigners are also calling on Western retailers to stop selling fabric from Xinjiang, after a BBC investigation found that hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are being forced to pick cotton or work in textile factories linked to detention camps.

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