Uyghur issue at the UN Human Rights Council: will there be even a debate?

October 5, 2022

The controversial issue of the treatment of Uyghurs is continuing to play out at the UN Human Rights Council. A resolution is being considered this week to discuss the report’s findings awhich is being strongly resisted by China who is leaning heavily on smaller states to oppose it. If these efforts are successful, they could deal a severe blow to the legitimacy of the UN Human Rights Council. Groups such as CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch have been following this issue closely and are urging Member States to support a decision to AT LEAST discuss the report in the interests of transparency and accountability. But then the big disappointment: on Thursday 6 October at the Human Rights Council the motion was rejected in a tight vote of 19 states against, 17 in favour and 11 abstentions.

On 3 October 2022 CIVICUS is urging UN Human Rights Council member States to do the right thing by voting in support of a resolution to debate the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The resolution follows the release of a major UN report which affirms that the rights of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim population are being violated through an industrial-level programme of mass incarceration, systemic torture and sexual violence. The report attracted intense criticism from the Chinese government before it was released on 31 August 2022, minutes before the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet ended her term. SEE: See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/01/finally-the-long-awaited-un-report-on-china/.

The report concludes that the actions of the Chinese government in XUAR including arbitrary detention, cultural persecution and forced labour may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity. Recommendations include the taking of prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily imprisoned in XUAR, a full legal review of national security and counter-terrorism policies, and an official investigation into allegations of human rights violations in camps and detention facilities.  

China’s government has rejected the findings and called into question the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Office of the High Commissioner has asserted that the report is based on a rigorous review of documentary evidence with its credibility assessed in accordance with standard human rights methodology.

A proposed resolution to hold a debate on the report’s findings at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council is being resisted by China which is also said to be pressuring states that make up the 47-member Human Rights Council not to support the resolution.

The UN report affirms testimonies of victims belonging to the Uyghur community who have endured extreme forms of oppression. Human rights researchers and civil society groups have for years documented abuses and sounded the alarm to the international community about the situation in Xinjiang,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer. “Yet the Chinese state is going to extraordinary lengths to suppress the findings and cover up its actions.

In June 2020, 50 UN Special Rapporteurs and human rights experts issued a joint statement, that catalogued concerns over the treatment of ethnic minorities in XUAR and Tibet, alleging excessive force against protesters, as well as in Hong Kong, and reports of retaliation against people voicing their concerns publicly over COVID-19 pandemic policies.  The experts urged the Human Rights Council to convene a special session on China; consider the creation of a Special Procedures mandate; and appoint a UN Special Envoy or a panel of experts to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China. 

Sophie Richardson of HRW stated: ‘This week the credibility of the United Nations Human Rights Council is on the line over an extraordinarily modest request: to hold a debate on a recent report from the UN high commissioner for human rights on abuses in the Xinjiang region of China. Member states would not be obliged to take a position on the issues at hand, the government in question, or even seek a particular outcome. But the debate is an opportunity to stand together to ensure the council fulfils its bare minimum mandate.

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/media-releases/6070-global-civil-society-alliance-urges-human-rights-council-members-to-support-debate-on-uyghur-abuses-report

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/op-eds/6072-uyghur-violations-a-litmus-test-for-global-governance-and-rules-based-international-order

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/10/03/un-rights-body-should-debate-xinjiang-report

One Response to “Uyghur issue at the UN Human Rights Council: will there be even a debate?”


  1. […] Uyghur issue at the UN Human Rights Council: will there be even a debate? […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: