Dec 15, 2020 - World

ICC rejects call to investigate China over Uighur genocide claims, for now

This photo taken on June 2, 2019 shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, in Artux, north of Kashgar in China's western Xinjiang region.

A facility believed to be a "re-education camp," where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, in Artux in China's Xinjiang region, in 2019. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday declined to open an investigation into allegations of genocide against Uighur Muslims in China, but it left the file open.

Why it matters: This means that more evidence can be submitted on claims of genocide by Chinese authorities against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, northwest China, and the ICC could still open an investigation.

Driving the news: The office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a report the "precondition for the exercise of the court's territorial jurisdiction did not appear to be met" as the evidence concerned alleged crimes and suspects in China, which is not a signatory to the global court.

  • But Rodney Dixon, the lead barrister in the case against China, told the Guardian he's "hopeful that the ICC will take up this investigation."
  • "We will be providing highly relevant evidence that will permit this to happen in the coming months," Dixon added.

Of note: In 2019, the ICC approved an investigation into crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

  • Myanmar is not a member of the ICC. However, the Hague-based court said it had jurisdiction to investigate as some of the crimes were alleged to have taken place in Bangladesh, which ratified the ICC Rome statute in 2010.

The big picture: Chinese officials have since 2017 detained up to 2 million Uighurs in "re-education camps." They deny any abuses have occurred, claiming they're being used to root out extremism. But evidence has emerged to support allegations of torture, forced sterilization and other abuses.

  • There has been growing global condemnation of China over its treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. At the UN in October, 39 nations including the U.S. denounced Beijing for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In the U.S., the Trump administration has imposed measures including the sanctioning of Chinese Communist Party officials, while President-elect Biden has labeled the oppression "genocide."

Read the ICC report, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: Chinese ambassador struggles to explain Xinjiang footage of blindfolded prisoners

Go deeper