The Genocide Convention of 1948
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (PDF), also known as Genocide Convention, was signed on 9 December 1948. It was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
In context of the Second World War, it signified the commitment of the international community to never let such atrocities – as they happened during World War II, namely the Holocaust – never happen again. Genocide is a crime that can occur both in times of war and peace. The definition of Genocide was also adopted in the 1998 Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The countries that signed the treaty have following obligations:
- Obligation not to commit genocide (Article I as interpreted by the ICJ)
- Obligation to prevent genocide (Article I) which, according to the ICJ, has an extraterritorial scope;
- Obligation to punish genocide (Article I);
- Obligation to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention (Article V);
- Obligation to ensure that effective penalties are provided for persons found guilty of criminal conduct according to the Convention (Article V);
- Obligation to try persons charged with genocide in a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by an international penal tribunal with accepted jurisdiction (Article VI);
- Obligation to grant extradition when genocide charges are involved, in accordance with laws and treaties in force (Article VII), particularly related to protection granted by international human rights law prohibiting refoulment where there is a real risk of flagrant human rights violations in the receiving State.
Genocide of the Uighurs
The 25,000-word report, which was published by a non-partisan US-based thinktank (Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy), put forward a legal examination and found that China breaches every article of the Genocide Convention.
Listed here are some of the articles of the 1948 Genocide Convention:
The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide.
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.
The violations are explained in an article of the Guardian:
„As evidence, the report cited reports of mass deaths, selective death sentences, and long-term imprisonment of elders, systemic torture and cruel treatment including sexual abuse and torture, interrogations and indoctrination, the targeted detention of Uighur community leaders and people of childbearing age, forced sterilisation, family separation, mass labour transfer schemes, and the transfer of Uighur children to state-run orphanages and boarding schools.“
“The intent to destroy the Uighurs as a group is derived from objective proof, consisting of comprehensive state policy and practice, which President Xi Jinping, the highest authority in China, set in motion,” the report said.
“The persons and entities perpetrating the above-indicated acts of genocide are all state agents or organs – acting under the effective control of the state – manifesting an intent to destroy the Uighurs as a group within the meaning of article II of the Genocide convention,” the executive summary said.
Regarding the report:
„In creating the report, all available and verifiable evidence was studied by dozens of experts on international law, genocide studies, Chinese ethnic policies and China, the institute said. It made no recommendations.“
Addendum 1: Executive Summary of the Report – Genocide Convention Breaches
- This report concludes that the People’s Republic of China (China) bears State
responsibility for committing genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of the 1948
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide
Convention) based on an extensive review of the available evidence and application of
international law to the evidence of the facts on the ground.
- The examination was conducted by recognized independent experts on international
law, genocide, China’s ethnic policies, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
- Intent to Destroy. Under Article II of the Genocide Convention, the commission of
genocide requires the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [a protected group], as
such.” The “intent to destroy” does not require explicit statements. Intent can be
inferred from a collection of objective facts that are attributable to the State, including
official statements, a general plan, State policy and law, a pattern of conduct, and
repeated destructive acts, which have a logical sequence and result — destruction of
the group as such, in whole or in substantial part.
- High-level statements of intent and general plan. In 2014, China’s Head of State,
President Xi Jinping, launched the “People’s War on Terror” in XUAR, making the areas
where Uyghurs constitute nearly 90 percent of the population the front line. High-level
officials followed up with orders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,”
“wipe them out completely … destroy them root and branch,” and “break their lineage,
break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Officials described
Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of
Uyghurs to “eradicating tumors.”
- Comprehensive State policy, pattern of conduct and repeated destructive acts.
a. Government-Mandated Homestays. Since 2014, the Government of China
(Government) has deployed Han cadres to reside in Uyghur homes as monitors,
resulting in the rupturing of family bonds. County governments further coerce,
incentivize, and actively promote Han-Uyghur marriages.
b. Mass Internment. In 2017, the XUAR legislature formally legalized the mass
internment of Uyghurs under “De-Extremification” regulations. The top security
official and entities dispatched a manual and set of documents across the region
with orders to police Uyghurs, “speed up the construction” and expansion of the
mass internment camps, “increase the discipline and punishment” within the camps
and maintain “strict secrecy” over all information, which is not to “be
disseminated,” nor “open to the public.” The manual outlines the complex hierarchy of officials, entities, and the centralized digital surveillance system overseeing the entire campaign.
c. Mass Birth-Prevention Strategy. China has simultaneously pursued a dualsystematic strategy of forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women of childbearing age and interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years, preventing the regenerative capacity of the group and evincing an intent to biologically destroy the group as such. According to Government statistics and directives, including to “carry out family planning sterilization,” “lower fertility levels,” and ”leave no blind spots,” China is carrying out a well-documented, State-funded birth-prevention campaign targeting women of childbearing age in Uyghur-concentrated areas with mass forced sterilization, abortions, and IUD placements. China explicitly admits the purpose of these campaigns is to ensure that Uyghur women are “no longer baby-makingmachines.”
d. Forcible Transfer of Uyghur Children to State-run Facilities. Pursuant to new Government policy in 2017, China began building a vast network of massive State-run, highly securitized boarding schools and orphanages to confine Uyghur children, including infants, full time. XUAR counties receive specific quotas from higher authorities to institutionalize such “orphans,” who often lose both parents to internment or forced labor.
e. Eradication of Uyghur identity, community, and domestic life. Pursuant to Government campaigns, local authorities have eliminated Uyghur education, destroyed Uyghur architecture and household features, and damaged, altered, or completely demolished the vast majority of mosques and sacred sites in the region, while closing off other sites or converting them into commercial spaces.
f. Selective Targeting of Intellectuals and Community Leaders. The intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group is further demonstrated by the Government’s deliberate targeting of the guardians and transmitters of Uyghur identity for prolonged detention or death, including household heads, intellectuals, and cultural leaders, regardless of Party affiliation or educational status. The deliberate targeting of Uyghur leaders and sacred sites evinces an intent to destroy the essential elements of Uyghur identity and communal bonds, which define the group as such.
6. China’s policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be viewed in their
totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group, in whole or in
substantial part, as such.
7. Acts of Genocide. While commission of any one of the Genocide Convention’s
enumerated acts with the requisite intent can sustain a finding of genocide, the evidence presented in this report supports a finding of genocide against the Uyghurs in
breach of each and every act prohibited in Article II (a) through (e).
- “(a) Killing members of the group.” There are reports of mass death and deaths of
prominent Uyghur leaders selectively sentenced to death by execution or, for elders in
particular, by long-term imprisonment.
- “(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” Uyghurs are
suffering serious bodily and mental harm from systematic torture and cruel treatment,
including rape, sexual abuse, exploitation, and public humiliation, at the hands of camp officials and Han cadres assigned to Uyghur homes under Government-mandated
programs. Internment camps contain designated “interrogation rooms,” where Uyghur
detainees are subjected to consistent and brutal torture methods, including beatings
with metal prods, electric shocks, and whips. The mass internment and related
Government programs are designed to indoctrinate and “wash clean” brains, driving
Uyghurs to commit or attempt suicide from the threat of internment or the daily
extreme forms of physical and psychological torture within the camps, including mock
executions, public “self-criticisms,” and solitary confinement.
- “(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction in whole or in part.” The authorities systematically target Uyghurs
of childbearing years, household heads, and community leaders for detention in
unliveable conditions, impose birth-prevention measures on Uyghur women, separate
Uyghur children from their parents, and transfer Uyghurs on a mass scale into forced
hard labor schemes in a manner that parallels the mass internment. In sum, China is
deliberately inflicting collective conditions calculated to terminate the survival of the
Uyghurs as a group.
- “(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” The systematic
birth prevention campaign in Uyghur-concentrated areas is reinforced by the mass
internment drive. In the camps, Uyghur women are subjected to forced IUD insertions,
abortions, and injections or medication halting their menstrual cycles, while Uyghur
men of childbearing age are targeted for internment, depriving the Uyghur population
of the ability to reproduce. As a result of these interconnected policies, growth rates in
Uyghur-concentrated areas are increasingly approaching zero.
- “(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Where detentions
and forced labor schemes are leaving Uyghur children bereft of both parents, they are
being sent to State-run orphanages and raised in Chinese-language environments with
standard Han child-rearing methods.
- China’s Responsibility for Genocide under the Genocide Convention. China is a highly
centralized State in full control of its territory and population, including XUAR, and is a
State party to the Genocide Convention. The persons and entities perpetrating the
above-indicated acts of genocide are all State agents or organs — acting under the
effective control of the State — manifesting an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group within the meaning of Article II of the Genocide Convention.
The increased restrictions on the Uighur population, as well as continued and increasing violation of their human rights, is unfortunately not news. Under Xi Jinping the repressions have drastically increased:
„Jewher’s father was targeted by the Chinese government for his advocacy of Uighur rights. But in recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has arbitrarily detained between 1 million and 3 million other Uighurs in so-called “reeducation centers” and forced them to undergo psychological indoctrination programs, such as studying communist propaganda and giving thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese officials have also reportedly used waterboarding and other forms of torture,including sexual abuse, as part of the indoctrination process.
Researchers from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, using satellite imagery and other evidence, have documented more than 380 re-education camp detention centers and prisons in Xinjiang, with at least 61 having been expanded or updated within the last year.“
It is the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority group since World War II.
The Uighurs are also being used for forced labour: „The forced labor is happening both within Xinjiang and in other parts of China, according to recent reports. A March 2020 report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China also found Uighur forced labor taking place within internment camps.“
The article of Vox elaborates on the forced labour used by the Chinese government.
It is clear that the international community mustn’t look away now. Especially Europe, which had to endure the terror reign of the national socialist regime (1933-1945; war started in 1939) and preaches that such things as a genocide should never happen again, must intervene. From sanctions to a reduction of trade, the options need to be taken seriously into consideration. In the long-term, less dependence on China and in general more independence – as much as possible – should be the goal.
It would be a disaster if the Chinese government under Xi Jinping is not being punished. If nothings is done, it essentially signals to other dictatorships that they can do as they please without having to fear interventions from other powers that have once pledged to uphold human rights and prevent atrocities from happening again.
Addendum 2: The Conclusion of the Report (Executive Summary)
This report therefore concludes that China bears State responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, in breach of the Genocide Convention.
However, the report does not not recommend a course of action. In their words:
„We do not make any recommendations for action, but we do stand prepared to share our information and analysis with relevant institutions or actors interested in these findings.“