April 7, 2008
7 April 2008, The Hague - Present and future leaders of the Uyghur community convened in Berlin for a Leadership Training Seminar hosted by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) on the topic of Self-Determination under International Law.
At the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) above all deserves a gold medal for its constant violation of human rights among its Han population and minorities. This was most prominently exemplified by its latest brutal crack down on Tibetan demonstrators. However, simultaneously all over the PRC and East Turkestan particularly, young Uyghur men were “pre-emptively” rounded-up and imprisoned to prevent them from nonviolently demonstrating to raise awareness of their disadvantaged position in Chinese society.
The Uyghurs are the indigenous inhabitants of East Turkestan (Xinjiang), a territory that has been under the control of the PRC since 1949. Like other minorities in the PRC, the Uyghur population is a victim of ongoing repression, including culturally destructive assimilation policies and substantial restrictions on their basic freedoms, with conditions deteriorating still further since the onset of the “war on terror.” The arbitrary arrest and extrajudicial detention of young Uyghur men are in line with a Chinese “tradition” in East Turkestan of political oppression, cultural assimilation, economic exploitation, ecological destruction, arbitrary, torture, and executions policies which started on a constant basis in the 1950s.
The main advocate for the rights of Uyghurs is Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Rafto Prize Laureate and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. As a former prisoner of conscience in the PRC and a mother to children still held in Chinese jails, Ms. Kadeer knows first hand of the difficulties Uyghur communities face and the challenges of sustaining international attention even when breaches of the most fundamental human rights are commonplace.
To train present and future leaders of the Uyghur community to defend their human rights at international fora, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) gathered for a series of workshops and seminars in Berlin, Germany on 20-23 April 2008. Participants were introduced to the workings of international bodies through the officials and practitioners who know them best. More than 50 Uyghur leaders and political activists from around the world attended the event.
The seminar provided the Uyghur Community with the knowledge and experience necessary not only to make efficient use of the international bodies that exist to ensure their rights are protected, but also to build capacity in the field of human rights and democratisation efforts. These skills will allow them to appeal to the Chinese government and the international community regarding their rights both nationally and internationally. It furthermore trained them to become active advocates for human rights and nonviolent protest. The Chinese constitution and the international treaties it signed and ratified wil provide a strong legal base from which to appeal for their rights.
It is worthy to recall that the PRC has a constitutional provision [Article 4] protecting the rights and interest of minorities and that a further provision [Article 89] safeguards the equal rights of minorities and guarantees the rights of autonomy. However, recent developments in the PRC have clearly pointed out that the Chinese authorities do not obey the rule of law, but impose the rule of law of an authoritarian Communist regime.
The PRC furthermore ratified, in 2001, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, to which it is not adhering. Article 1 provides that: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." Article 2 states: “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligation arising out of international co-operation, based upon the principles of mutual benefit and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its won means of subsistence.”
The PRC’s national constitution and the ratification of international treaties are pressuring the PRC to answer to the criticism of the international community on its human rights violations. They furthermore are powerful tools for change that should positively alter the human rights situation of Uyghurs, minorities, and the population at large in the PRC.
Mr. Dolkun Isa, Secretary General, WUC
Mr. Marino Busdachin, Secretary General, UNPO
Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President, WUC
Guests of Honor
Mr. Günther Nooke, Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Dirk Pleiter, Amnesty International
Mr. Feruk Unsal, Member of Turkish Parliament
Ms. Frances Eqerer, representative of Mr. Margarete Bause from the Green Party of the Bavarian Parliament
Session I International Law and Self Determination: Concepts
Mrs. Anna Batalla (UN Official, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights): “The International System of Justice and its Applicability in Self Determination: Challenges and Obstacles”
Mr. Hans-Joachim Heintze (Executive Director of the Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict): “The Risk of Self-Determination Trap in the context of International Relations”
Session II The Different Possibilities of Autonomy and Case Studies
Mr. Michael Gibb (PhD Candidate, University of Oxford): “Alternatives to Autonomy: The different taxonomy for multiethnic countries: Federalism, Cultural Autonomy, Confederalism”
Mr. Pedro Pinto Leite (Secretary General of the International Platform of Jurist for East Timor): “The Right of Self Determination: Comparative Cases of East Timor, Western Sahara and West Papua”
Mr. Mohamoud Daar (Somaliland representative in Brussels): “The case of Somaliland: Opportunities and Challenges”
Session III Identity and Responses in the Globalised World
Mr. Graham Brown (Researcher at the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) at University of Oxford): “Rise of Ethnic Identity in Asia and Islam groups – Impact on the Legitimacy of a Movement”
Senator. Marco Perduca MP (Nonviolent Radical Party), “Identity in the World: the EU’s Responses and Procedures to Ethno-Regionalism in the World”
Mr. Liao Ran (Senior Programme Coordinator for East and South Asia, Transparency International): “The Lack of Transparency in China and How it Negatively Affects Civil Society Work: Ways to Circumvent this Challenge”
Session IV Effective Participation and Role of Diaspora
Mr. Joshua Cooper (Hawaii Institute for Human Rights): “Effective Participation in International Fora such as the EU and UN Bodies”
Training: Use of International Law Instruments and Alternative Nonviolent Instruments to Advance National Issues, Media Training.
Training: Division in Groups: The Olympics and the International Momentum: What use of Creative Campaigns?
Session VI Sightseeing and Visiting German Bundestag
Hearing with Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid at German Parliament.
As part of the hearing meetings took place with Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin MP, Mrs. Angelika Graf MP, Mr. Christoph Strässer MP, Mr. Walter Kalbow MP, and Mr. Wolfgung Gunkel MP. Additionally meetings with Mrs. Dietlind Jering, Vice Director of the Representation of the European Comission in Germany, Mrs. Claudia Roth MP and Mr. Holger Haibach MP took place.
Session VI Concluding Remarks and Future Outlooks
Ms. Seema Saifee (Pro Bono Attorney for Uyghurs in Guantanamo): “International Human Rights Law: The Future of Uyghur Prisoners at Guantanamo”
Mr. Ulrich Delius (Society of Threatened People): “Future Prospects for East Turkestan and Effect of International Advocacy: German Institutions and Their Policies”
Mr. Albrecht Göring (Lawyer, Expert on Uyghur Issue): “China and the Olympics: The momentum for ethnic minorities and a realistic assessment for the situation of Uyghurs”
Other Special Guests
Ms. Venera Vagizova, President of the Tartar Community Germany
- Berlin Declaration -
Participants adopted the BERLIN DECLARATION at the conclusion of the training which reaffirms their commitment to nonviolence and respect of fundamental human rights, as well as calls upon the European Union and other international actors to urge Chinese authorities to address the regressing human rights conditions in East Turkestan.
To read the Berlin Declaration please click here. (English language, PDF format, 90kb)
To read the Berlin Declaration please click here. (Uyghur language, PDF format, 95kb)
Note: To read an article on the progress of the first day of the Uyghur Leadership Training, please click here.
Press coverage of the training seminar: