Uighur Muslims in Istanbul accuse Chinese officials of committing genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.
Nineteen people from China’s Uighur Muslim ethnic group lodged a criminal complaint with a Turkish prosecutor against Chinese officials and accused them of it to commit genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.
Attorney Gulden Sonmez said on Tuesday it was necessary because international bodies had not acted against Chinese authorities, who were accused of forcing about a million Uighurs detained and other predominantly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China initially denied that the camps existed, but has since said it is vocational centers and is designed to combat extremism. It denies all allegations of abuse.
About 50,000 Uighurs – with whom Turks share ethnic, religious and linguistic affiliations – apparently live in Turkey, the largest Uighur diaspora outside Central Asia.
The complaint was lodged with the chief prosecutor of Istanbul on Tuesday.
China’s embassy in Turkey and the prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The International Criminal Court should have already started this trial, but China is a member of the [United Nations] “Security council and it does not seem possible within this dynamic,” Sonmez said outside the city’s main court.
Around the lawyer were more than 50 people with photos of missing family members and signs calling for the prosecution of Chinese officials.
Some have waved the blue and white flags of the East Turkestan independence movement, a group that, according to Beijing, threatens the stability of its far-western region of Xinjiang.
The complaint concerns 116 people who, according to the complainants, are still being held in China and have been lodged against 112 people, including members of the Chinese Communist Party, directors and officials at labor camps.
“Turkish law recognizes universal jurisdiction. Torture, genocide, rape [and] “Crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in Turkish courts and criminals can be tried,” Sonmez said.
‘Save my sister’
Medine Nazimi, one of those who filed the criminal complaint, said her sister was taken away in 2017 and has not been heard from since.
“My sister and I are Turkish citizens, so I want my government to save my sister,” Nazimi said.
Some of the Uighurs living in Turkey have criticized Ankara’s approach to China after the two nations agreed on an extradition treaty.
Turkey’s foreign minister said in March that the agreement was similar to the one Ankara had with other states and denied that it would lead to Uighurs being sent back to China.
Some Turkish opposition leaders have accused the government of disregarding Uighur 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 Uighur Muslims live in peace as “equal citizens of China”, but said Turkey respected China’s national sovereignty.
UN experts and legal groups estimate more than a million people, mainly from Uighur and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in recent years.