Uyghur Muslims in Istanbul accuse Chinese authorities of committing genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.
Nineteen people belonging to China’s Uyghur Muslim ethnic group have filed a criminal complaint with a Turkish prosecutor against Chinese officials, accusing them of committing genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.
Lawyer Gulden Sonmez said on Tuesday it was necessary because international bodies failed to act against Chinese authorities, who have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China initially denied the existence of the camps, but has since said they were vocational training centers designed to counter extremism. He denies all accusations of abuse.
About 50,000 Uyghurs – with whom Turks share ethnic, religious and linguistic ties – are believed to reside in Turkey, the largest Uyghur diaspora outside of Central Asia.
The complaint was filed Tuesday with the Istanbul prosecutor’s office.
The Chinese Embassy in Turkey and the prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
â€œThe International Criminal Court should have started this trial already, but China is a member of the [United Nations] Security Council and that does not seem possible in this dynamic, â€Sonmez said in front of the city‘s main court.
Around the lawyer were more than 50 people holding photos of missing family members and signs calling for Chinese authorities to prosecute.
Some waved the blue and white flags of the East Turkestan independence movement, a group that Beijing says threatens the stability of its far-western region of Xinjiang.
The complaint concerned 116 people who the complainants said are still detained in China and was filed against 112 people, including members of the Chinese Communist Party, directors and officers of labor camps.
â€œTurkish law recognizes universal jurisdiction. Torture, genocide, rape [and] crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in Turkish courts and criminals can be tried, â€Sonmez said.
“Save my sister”
Medine Nazimi, one of those who lodged a criminal complaint, said her sister was taken away in 2017 and has not heard from since.
â€œMy sister and I are Turkish citizens, so I want my government to save my sister,â€ Nazimi said.
Some of the Uyghurs living in Turkey have criticized Ankara’s approach to China after the two countries agreed to an extradition treaty.
Turkey’s foreign minister said in March that the deal was similar to Ankara’s with other states and denied that it would lead to Uyghurs being returned to China.
Some Turkish opposition leaders have accused the government of neglecting Uyghur rights in favor of other interests with China, which the government denies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in July that it was important for Turkey that Uyghur Muslims live in peace as “equal citizens of China,” but said Turkey respects sovereignty National China.
UN experts and rights groups estimate that more than a million people, mostly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in recent years.