Editor’s Note: Alfred de Zayas is professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and was United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order 2012-18. He is the author of ten books, including “Building a Just World Order”. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the CGTN.
On December 9, the anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948, the so-called Uighur Court in London declared that China had committed genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities .
What kind of tribunal was it and what credibility does it have? Over the past decades, we have seen that some popular courts such as the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam (1966), the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal on Iraq War Crimes (2011) or the Leilo Basso Tribunal on genocide against Tamils (2013) can be helpful. institutions, especially where the corporate media have failed to inform the public about war crimes and crimes against humanity. These courts are legitimate because they reflect a spontaneous protest against the crime of silence by the government and the media. Such courts constitute a form of transitional justice which challenges the legalism and the judicial monopoly of the State. They are needed where the world order has failed to punish war crimes and crimes against humanity, for example in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
On the other hand, there are also political tribunals which are set up to advance and corroborate the geopolitical agendas of certain countries. No one will claim that the allegations against China regarding the Uighurs have been ignored or covered by the press. On the contrary, for years American and British politicians have made unproven accusations, which the mainstream media, including the BBC, have dutifully reported and amplified. A “tribunal” like the Uighur tribunal has a very specific purpose – not to enlighten the public but to fuel a well-orchestrated campaign.
This UK-based “tribunal”, launched on September 3, 2020, with the help of a non-governmental organization, the Coalition for Genocide Response, is a partisan exercise aimed at manipulating public opinion against an economic rival – China.
Who finances the propaganda exercise? It is common knowledge that the tribunal is funded by the “World Uygur Congress”, a pseudo-“regime change” organization backed by the United States’ National Endowment for Democracy. This Uighur World Congress is also associated with the East Turkestan Islamist Movement, a terrorist organization on the UN terrorist list, guilty of terrorist activities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Since the rise of unrest against China under Donald Trump, the Chinese government has provided answers and evidence to the almost surreal allegations of “genocide” in Xinjiang. China has opened its doors to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who will likely visit the region. There is no objection to a truly impartial investigation into “forced labor” charges, but investigators must be objective and in good faith.
Anyone who has followed the developments around the Uighur tribunal and the disinformation in the corporate media realizes that the tribunal was created to come to a certain conclusion, namely genocide, and that the “trial” was conducted on a “presumption of guilt, ”as spokesperson for the Chinese mission to the UN in Geneva, Liu Yuyin, said in a statement. Therefore, this would not deserve our attention, except that it is a propaganda tool that the “narrative managers” of corporate media in the US, UK and EU will use to achieve. continue their Sino-phobic disinformation about Xinjiang and the ongoing hatred. speech campaign against China.
It is not entirely clear why a legal expert like Sir Geoffrey Nice, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, would lend his good reputation to this. In any case, the judgment rendered is not exactly what we read in the boulevard press, which is sensationalist and greedy for scandal.
While the tribunal examined the five acts of genocide listed in article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention, it rejected four, observing that there was no evidence of genocidal intent. But then the court examines the fourth criterion for imposing measures to prevent reproduction and finds it sufficient to consider it genocide.
There is really no case law on this act, and the Uighur case is hardly a candidate for such a momentous conclusion because the aim of the Chinese measures is not and never has been to “destroy in all or in part “the Uighur group by suppressing births, but reflects a general strategy of population control in a country which already has 1.4 billion human beings.
Such a measure can be criticized, but it seems to fall within the internal competence of a State concerned with the well-being of the entire population. Prima vista, this does not seem unusual due to the very high birth rate in the area. Despite Chinese measures, the Uighur population continues to grow faster than the population of the rest of China.
So where is the genocide? There is no legal or precedent to claim that trying to reduce a very high birth rate to something more modest is something contemplated by Article 2 (d) of the Genocide Convention. Does this make any sense? Any serious international jurist would regard such an interpretation of the Convention as absurd.
One possible explanation for what happened is that even though the tribunal could not see the validity of the genocide argument in general, it also could not bring itself to reject it altogether. By developing this bizarre twist, the court managed to save face because, with the Sino-phobic environment surrounding the proceedings, a full acquittal by China would have been unthinkable.
The “judgment” handed down by this tribunal is fundamentally flawed as it is partly based on false information, extrapolations, hyperbole and blithely ignores this fundamental principle of all courts – audiatur and altera pars – which means not only listening to all aspects of an issue, including documentation made public by the Chinese government, but proactively seeking out all relevant information and assessing it in good faith. Even the Internet provides abundant information that contradicts the court judgment.
We should all be concerned about the Orwellian corruption of language, double standards and the manipulation of public opinion, which undermine our democracies and erode our self-esteem. We have to be very careful that such hostile propaganda does not lead the world down the geopolitical precipice.
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