Uyghurs in Turkey File Criminal Complaint Against Chinese Officials

By Reuters
January 6, 2022 Updated: January 6, 2022

ISTANBUL—Nineteen people from China’s Uyghur Muslim ethnic group filed a criminal complaint with a Turkish prosecutor on Tuesday against Chinese officials, accusing them of committing genocide, torture, rape, and crimes.

Lawyer Gulden Sonmez said it was necessary because international bodies had not acted against the Chinese communist regime, who has been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.

The Chinese regime initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centers and are designed to combat extremism. It denies all accusations of abuse.

About 50,000 Uyghurs—with whom Turks share ethnic, religious, and linguistic connections—are believed to reside in Turkey, the largest Uyghur diaspora outside Central Asia.

The complaint was filed with the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

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 courthouse.

Epoch Times Photo
Ethnic Uyghur men take part in a protest against China, in front of the Caglayan Courthouse, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 4, 2022. (Dilara Senkaya/Reuters)

Surrounding the lawyer were more than 50 people holding photos of missing family members and signs calling for the prosecution of Chinese officials.

The complaint relates to 116 people who the complainants say are still detained in China and was filed against 112 people, including members of the Chinese Communist Party, directors and officers at labour camps.

“Turkish legislation recognizes universal jurisdiction. Torture, genocide, rape, (and) crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in Turkish courts and criminals can be tried,” Sonmez said.

‘Rescue My Sister’

Medine Nazimi, one of those who filed the criminal complaint, said her sister had been taken away in 2017 and she had not been heard from since.

“My sister and I are Turkish citizens so I want my government to rescue my sister,” Nazimi said.

Some of the Uyghurs 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 the deal was similar to those Ankara has with other states and denied it would lead to Uyghurs being sent back to China.

Some Turkish opposition leaders have accused the government of overlooking Uyghur rights in favor of other interests with China, which the government denies.

U.N. experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly from the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in camps in Xinjiang.