Preliminary legal opinion by Prof. Dr. Kai Ambos

Prof. Dr. Kai Ambos, Judge Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Hague, NL; advisor (amicus curiae) Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Georg August Universität Göttingen in Germany:

1. I  was asked by the “Verband Jüdischer Studierender Nord (VJSNord)” to give an opinion, in my academic capacity and from an international criminal law perspective, on the treatment of the minority group of the Uyghurs in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. 

2. This opinion is based on the publicly available information, especially the 2017 and 2018 Reports of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/CHN/14-17 and CERD/C/CHN/CO/14-17) and the 2019 report “Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang” of the US-based Center for  Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) as well as the Resolution of the European Parliament of 19 December 2019 (P9_TA-PROV(2019)0110). This information neither has been verified by any form of active fact-finding, nor is it supported by any form of judicial statements or decisions. The opinion is therefore of a very preliminary and provisional nature both in terms of facts and law. The opinion has been delivered pro bono.

3. The available information serves as a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity (within the meaning of Art. 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) have been committed by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang autonomous region. The context element of a widespread or systematic attack pursuant to a policy may be inferred from the general policy of the Chinese central government to quell any religious or other movement striving for independence or greater autonomy, and from the widespread and systematic nature of individual crimes against humanity perpetrated against members of the Uyghurs. As individual acts, especially imprisonment (Art. 7(1)(e) Rome Statute), torture (Art. 7(1)(f)), persecution (Art. 7(1)(h)) and other inhuman acts (Art. 7(1)(k)) appear possible.

4. By contrast, there is no reasonable basis to believe that a genocide has been or is being committed. While the Uyghurs – as a religious group – belong to the protected groups of the Genocide Convention and thus are protected by the respective offence of Article 6 Rome Statute, there are no indicia that the Chinese authorities are acting or have acted with the specific intent to destroy such a protected group.  

5. This opinion in no way claims to fully capture the situation on the ground and thus can only constitute a preliminary and provisional application of the relevant law to the facts.

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