January 27, 2012

East Turkestan: Uyghur Exile Reportedly Sentenced to Jail

According to reports, one of the twenty Uyghurs extradited to China from Cambodia in 2009, was sentenced to seventeen years imprisonment in a closed trial in autumn 2011. Relatives of the imprisoned man claim that no information has been given to them about the charges against him.

Below is an article by the World Uyghur Congress:

Musa Muhamad (Muhemmed), one of the twenty ethnic Uyghurs extradited on 19 December 2009 from Cambodia to China, was sentenced to 17 years in prison last autumn, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) article published yesterday. Relatives of 25 year-old Muhamad told RFA that the Kashgar Intermediate Court sentenced him on 20 October 2011 in a closed trial, but that authorities refuse to provide information on the charges against him. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemns this sentence in the harshest possible terms, and fears that the other Uyghurs forcibly returned from Cambodia are suffering the same fate.

It is the first time that reliable information about a member from the group of extradited Uyghurs has reached the public. For the last two years, the Chinese government has insistently refused to provide information on the whereabouts and legal status of the people, despite having promised the international community that these Uyghurs would be dealt with transparently upon their return. The extradition, which came after intense pressure and influence by the Chinese authorities, represented a flagrant violation of international human rights treaties, especially the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol (of which Cambodia is a party), as well as international customary law; all of which prohibit the refoulement of individuals to a country where they will face torture or other forms of ill treatment.

“We have highlighted again and again before the international community that Uyghurs forcibly returned to China are in extreme risk of torture, detention and enforced disappearance, and the case of Musa Muhamad proves once again, that our fears are well-founded”, said WUC President and Uyghur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer today. “We call once again on the international community to pressure the Chinese authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of all the extradited Uyghurs and to provide the charges, if any, that have been made against them.”

According to the “World Report 2012”, recently released by Human Rights Watch (HRW), “in 2011 [China] significantly increased pressure on governments in Central and Southeast Asia to forcibly return Uighur [sic] refugees, leading to the refoulement of at least 20 people.” The organisation highlights cases such as the forcible return of the Uyghur refugee, Ershidin Israel, in May 2011 from Kazakhstan to China; the extradition of 11 Uyghur refugees from Malaysia to China in August 2011, and also the case of the Uyghur Nur Muhammed, who was handed over to the Chinese authorities in Bangkok. All of them have since disappeared. HRW claims that China’s record of arbitrary detention and torture of ethnic Uyghurs places  those disappeared at grave risk of abuse, ill treatment, and torture. Other countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, have also extradited Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers in the past.

The Uyghur refugees in Cambodia, considered by the Chinese authorities as “criminals,” had fled from China in small groups between May and October 2009, following the July 2009 events in Urumqi, East Turkestan´s regional capital. They fled after witnessing Chinese security forces arresting and using brutal and lethal force against Uyghur demonstrators during the peaceful Uyghur protest in July 2009 in Urumqi. They had applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugee status in Phnom Penh, their cases were still under review when they were forcibly returned to China. A UNHCR official stated, “in his 30 year history in UNHCR this was the most flagrant violation of the 1951 Convention on Refugees he had experienced.”

Following their extradition, China rewarded Cambodia for its reprehensible action by signing an agreement two days after the return. This agreement was reported to provide US$1.2 billion in aid to Cambodia.

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