China: enforced disappearances in the wake of Xinjiang’s protests (HRW report)
Human Rights Watch publicou esta semana un informe sobre as “desaparicións forzadas” que tiveron lugar na rexión autónoma de Xinjiang (China) despois dos episodios de violencia protagonizados por membros das etnias uigur e han no mes de xullo deste ano.
O informe leva por título “We Are Afraid to Even Look for Them” Enforced Disappearances in the Wake of Xinjiang’s Protests. Copio un extracto da súa introducción (a negrita é miña):
In the aftermath of the July 2009 protests in western Xinjiang province, Chinese security forces detained hundreds of people on suspicion of participation in the unrest. Dozens of these detainees, and possibly many more, have since “disappeared” without a trace.
The protests of July 5-7, 2009, in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, were one of the worst episodes of ethnic violence in China in decades. Information about the Xinjiang protests and their aftermath remains fragmentary. On July 5, protests by Uighurs, an ethnic minority group, against the killing of Uighur workers at the Guangdong toy factory appear to have begun peacefully. It remains unclear how the protest turned violent, with Uighur sources blaming the riot police for the excessive use of force against the protestors.
Chinese authorities were quick to accuse a variety of external forces of masterminding and sponsoring the unrest. They specifically blamed Rebiya Kadeer, a former political prisoner in Xinjiang and a prominent Uighur rights activist living in exile in the United States, for planning and organizing the protests. No evidence, however, has been provided to support those claims, and many analysts believe that the root causes of the protests were largely related to China’s longstanding discriminatory policies toward the Uighur minority.
By the evening of July 5, large groups of Uighur youths launched brutal attacks against Han Chinese residents in southern parts of Urumqi, leaving scores dead or injured, and setting dozens of buildings and cars on fire. Security forces did not reestablish control until the morning of July 6. On July 7, they attempted to prevent retaliatory assaults by Han Chinese residents of Urumqi, although at least some Uighurs fell victim to these attacks.
The latest official figures put the death toll from the protests at 197 people, the majority of them Han. More than 1,600 were injured. Uighur groups continue to question the official death toll, saying it underestimates the number of Uighur victims.
In contrast to the complete block on information after the 2008 protests in Tibet, in Urumqi the authorities allowed access for foreign journalists and even took measures to facilitate their work. However, the authorities prevented the journalists from documenting the arrests that followed the protests and other potential violations by the security forces. Indeed, some reporters were detained and escorted out of Uighur areas.
Chinese authorities also blocked the channels of uncensored information, including the internet, international phone lines, and text messaging for all but accredited foreign reporters; more than 50 internet Uighur forums and online discussion groups have been blocked since the protests. At the same time, the Chinese government used both the official media and other means of mass propaganda to promote its version of events domestically and internationally.
In the wake of the Urumqi protests, Chinese authorities declared they would deal decisively with perpetrators of the violence. Immediately after the protests and in the following two months, they released a number of contradictory statements regarding the number of people detained by the security forces in connection with the unrest, which seemed to have reached well over a thousand people. On October 12, 2009, China pronounced the first sentences in protest-related cases: six Uighur men were sentenced to death and one to life imprisonment.
This report is based on Human Rights Watch research conducted in the aftermath of the July protests. It documents the enforced disappearances of at least 43 Uighur men and teenage boys who were detained by Chinese security forces in the wake of the protests. The actual number of “disappeared” persons is likely significantly higher than the number of cases documented by Human Rights Watch, as our ability to collect information was limited. Out of fear of retaliation, few witnesses or family members were willing to come forward with their stories.
The Chinese authorities have the duty to thoroughly investigate incidents of violence and the right to punish the perpetrators in accordance with international law. However, our research indicates that instead of launching an impartial investigation in accordance with international and domestic standards, Chinese law enforcement agencies carried out a massive campaign of unlawful arrests in the Uighur areas of Urumqi, many of which resulted in “disappearances” of the detainees.
Enforced disappearances are serious violations of international human rights law. An enforced disappearance occurs when state authorities detain a person and then refuse to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or the person’s whereabouts, placing the person outside the protection of the law and increasing the likelihood of other abuses, such as torture and extrajudicial execution. The practice of “disappearances” and unlawful arrests also violates various provisions of Chinese criminal and procedural law.
While the Chinese legal system is anything but transparent, and criminal suspects are often held in incommunicado detention for prolonged periods of time, such cases do not necessarily constitute “disappearances” as long as the detention is acknowledged and at least some information about the detainee and his or her whereabouts is available. The cases described in this report, however, qualify as enforced disappearances because following arrest, the authorities have either denied the fact of detention or refused to provide any information about the detainees’ whereabouts or fate despite requests from relatives. […]
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