Parliament must act to curb genocide
Friday February 19 2021
Around one million Uyghur Muslims are being held in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, China. In reality, these camps are being used to imprison the Uyghur population with the aim of destroying the Uyghurs as a people.
According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is defined as:
“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
According to Boris Johnson, determining whether or not a genocide is taking place in a country has to be a judicial decision – meaning that it must be declared by a judicial body. However, at present, the only judicial bodies that the UK recognises to make such a determination are:
- The International Criminal Court: China will use their power of veto to block any investigation in the International Criminal Court.
- Or the International Court of Justice: China will not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice so will not allow an investigation to take place.
This is a similar situation to the case of the Yazidis, where Russia and China had the power to block investigations by the International Courts.
Consequently, there are no current mechanisms for the UK to declare a genocide in countries such as China.
However, Parliament will soon be voting on an amendment to the Trade Bill that could see the scrapping of trade deals with countries that are determined to be committing genocide. As the amendment currently stands, it would give a Parliamentary Judicial Committee (consisting of a panel of five judges in the House of Lords) the power to examine the evidence and declare if a genocide is taking place in a certain country. This committee would then have the power to trigger a vote in Parliament on whether to scrap trade deals with the country in question.
If passed, this legislation would allow the UK to not only officially recognise when genocide is taking place, but also hold that country to account.
A previous amendment to the Trade Bill would have allowed the High Court to determine a ruling of genocide and automatically forced the UK to scrap any trade deals with that country. The Government defeated this amendment by only 11 votes –meaning that only six more were needed to ensure that this law came into effect.
As such, when this bill returns to the House of Commons, it is essential that MPs vote in favour of the new amendment. As our political representatives, they must unequivocally pursue the morally right course of action in ensuring that acts such as those currently being committed against China’s Uyghur population will not be tolerated.
MEND, therefore, calls on all MPs to demonstrate their moral fortitude and stand in solidarity with the Uyghur people by supporting this amendment.
If you would like to get involved, find our action alert here and contact your MP.