UN Committee urge Morocco not to deport Uyghur activist back to China
Last week, a court in Morocco ruled in favor of extraditing Uyghur activist Idris Hasan back to China after detaining him for five months. The news raised concern among international human rights organizations, as they worry Hasan could be tortured if he were to be deported back to China. On Dec. 20, the United Nation’s Committee against Torture issued an interim measure, requesting the Moroccan government not to deport Hasan back to China immediately.
Human rights organization Safeguard Defenders confirmed on Dec. 20 that the UN committee against torture has issued an interim measure, demanding Moroccan authorities not to deport Uyghur activist Idris Hasan back to China while they examine the complaint submitted by Safeguard Defenders and Mena Rights Group.
In a statement, Safeguard Defenders said that since Morocco is a state that has declared the Committee’s competence under Article 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the country is bound under its international obligation to respect the committee’s interim measures.
Prior to the committee’s intervention, four independent UN human rights experts also urged the Moroccan government to halt the extradition of Idris Hasan to China on Dec. 16, citing the risk of “serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, or torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
These experts think that no country has the right to expel, return or otherwise remove any individual from its territory whenever there are substantial grounds for believing that “the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture in the State of destination, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights”.
Following the news of the court’s decision on Dec. 15, Hasan’s lawyer, Miloud Kandil, says the result is a serious mental blow to his client. Hasan was a computer engineer and he has been living in Turkey with his family since 2012. Since then, he has not returned to China.
He was very active in the Uyghur community in Turkey, helping to publish a newsletter that shares resettlement information while writing a book about computer hacking in Uyghur. Human rights organizations believe these experiences may have made him a target of the Chinese government’s crackdown.
The Chinese government issued an international red notice for Hasan in 2017, accusing him of participating in terrorist activities and joining terrorist organizations. However, after reviewing new evidence, Interpol canceled the red notice against Hasan in August. However, the Moroccan court still moved forward with his extradition trial based on the request made by the Chinese government.
Abduweli Ayup, an Uyghur activist living in Norway, says that since Hasan is accused of being a terrorist, he could face life imprisonment if he were to be deported back to China. “Since I experienced 15 months in jail in China, he could be forced to sign documents and I know what kind of torture he would be going through,” he said. “I can’t find any word to describe what would happen to him if he is sent back to China.”
Laura Harth, the campaign director for Safeguard Defenders, says that she isn’t too surprised by the Moroccan court’s decision, because China and Morocco signed the bilateral extradition treaty at the beginning of 2021.
“We are seeing the usual working methods of the CCP at work, so we understand that the Moroccan authorities might be even fearful of saying no and standing up to the CCP as many countries are doing,” she said.
“ Since Morocco is a rectifying state of the UN Convention against Torture, all our hopes rest with the UN committee against torture decides swiftly in favor of interim measures and that Morocco actually follows this ruling, which they should,” she added.
Overseas Uyghurs continue to face threats
Ayup points out that since the UN committee has intervened in this case while international human rights organizations continue to put pressure on the Moroccan government and Uyghurs in Norway, the US and Turkey keep protesting outside Moroccan embassies, he is confident that Hasan won’t be deported back to China in the end.
However, he is still worried about the growing trend of overseas Uyghurs being arrested while transferring to different countries. In fact, Hasan isn’t the first Uyghur that faced the risk of being deported back to China when they were arrested while transferring a flight to a third country.
Earlier this month, Qahar Heytem was arrested by local police while transferring to Serbia. After the intervention of local human rights lawyers, he was able to return to Turkey, but local police didn’t specify why they arrest Heytem in the first place.
Ayup says that the Uyghur community doesn’t know who is on Interpol’s list. “ Interpol should tell us how many Uyghurs are on the list of red notices and there should be an international guarantee for Uyghurs’ safety,” said Ayup.
“International organizations like the UN should give us a clear guarantee. Without it, it means that every Uyghur, especially the activists, are in danger right now and we need some transparent measure to protect Uyghur people’s safety,” he added.
Harth cited data from a report released by the Uyghur Human Rights Project and Oxus Central Asian Affairs Association in November, which shows that more than 90% of Uyghurs living in democratic countries think they have experienced threat, and within different forms of threats, Uyghurs being deported back to China is only a small part of it.
“Another thing that they’ve been doing a lot is the so-called involuntary return, where they use extra-legal measures, including harassment, threatening of family members back home, sending agents abroad to intimidate people to return to China,” she said.
“I think in recent years, close to 10,000 people have claimed to be returned to China in one way or another. We need to disband extradition treaties, as the European Parliament has called on repeatedly. We need to put in place adequate reporting mechanisms for these people,” she added.
This piece was first published in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.