The International Criminal Court said Monday that it will not investigate allegations that China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims.
In a report released Monday, the court declined to open an investigation but left the door open to launching one in the future, saying it would need more evidence supporting claims of mass detention, forced labor, and genocide by Chinese authorities against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in the report that the court could not open an investigation because the alleged crimes appear to have been committed “solely by nationals of China within the territory of China,” and China did not sign the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. Activists had cited abuses committed against Uyghurs living in ICC member countries Tajikistan and Cambodia in their attempt to bring a case against China.
Rodney Dixon, the lead barrister in the case, promised that his team will be presenting “highly relevant evidence” that they hope will lead to an investigation.
“This is a very important moment. The millions of Uyghur victims who are suffering terrible atrocities at the hand of the Chinese government officials need justice and we are hopeful that the ICC will take up this investigation,” Dixon said. “We will be providing highly relevant evidence that will permit this to happen in the coming months. 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 detained since 2017 an estimated one million or more Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in “re-education camps” around Xinjiang, which are designed to instill a sense of loyalty to the government. Around 80,000 Uyghurs have been forced to work in factories, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated.
China claims that the detention camps are for voluntary education and training and are used to combat extremism, but Chinese government documents leaked last year detail how the facilities are designed to erode the Uyghurs’ cultural attachments through mental and physical abuse.