GENEVA, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Human Rights Watch expects the United Nations to follow up on a report which found that China’s detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims may constitute crimes against humanity, its acting executive director said on Monday.
Tirana Hassan of Human Rights Watch said that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk seemed committed to taking action on the report, which was released in August by his predecessor Michelle Bachelet minutes before she ended her four-year mandate.
“We would like to see that he takes steps to actually follow through on that commitment,” Hassan told reporters.
The report accused China, a permanent member of the U.N. security council, of “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang province, and recommended that Beijing take steps to release all those held in training centres, prisons or detention facilities.
A Western-led bid to hold a debate on China’s treatment of Muslim populations at the U.N. Human Rights Council did not pass, however.
The initiative’s failure, Hassan said, should not be viewed as a loss given that it “came within a hair’s breadth of passing”.
“It was purely unthinkable just a few years ago for us to see the Council getting this close,” she said. “The vote essentially shattered the taboo that the Chinese government is beyond scrutiny and reproach.”
Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority of around 10 million people in the western region of Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. The United States has accused China of genocide.