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03-02-09, 06:11
East Turkestan: Swiss to back Uyghurs in UPR China


On the eve of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is to undergo in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in early February 2009, representatives of UNPO and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) seek diplomatic support in Geneva, Switzerland to highlight their case during the 3 hour state examination of the human rights record of PRC which is scheduled to take place on Friday 9 February 2009.

The UN HRC – which is haunted by the politicization of its predecessor, the Commission – installed a peer review mechanism under which the human rights situation in every UN member state will be examined in cycles of four years. Early 2009 will see the so-called Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the PRC, during which UN member states are allowed to ask questions and make recommendations with regards to the human rights situation in PRC.

NGOs have been requested to submit information beforehand, which is summarized in a 20 page report compiled by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Both UNPO and the WUC have contributed in this process, which started in the fall of 2008. On the eve of the actual review procedure, a diplomatic mission was launched with the aim of informing UN member states of the current situation in East Turkestan and to propose questions to be asked and recommendations to be made to PRC, as NGOs are not allowed to actively participate in the review.

To this end, the World Uyghur Congress has send representative Mr. Dolkun Isa to Geneva, assisted by the local Uyghur community, to lobby different governments for inclusion of the situation in East Turkestan in their statement assessing the Chinese human rights record. Assisted by UNPO representative Ms. Agnes Venema, Mr. Isa has been able to confirm meetings with representatives of almost a dozen UN member states.

The biggest result rendered so far is the word of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs to include the situation in East Turkestan in their statement. Whereas representatives of other states have been holding back in undertaking specific action on East Turkestan in light of the UPR, the Swiss representative assured the delegation of inclusion of this “very important issue” and stated that they were “certain that other states will do the same”. None, however, have to this point given off such a strong message as the Swiss.

Nevertheless, more meetings are scheduled to take place the day before the review process and several representatives – amongst which UNPO observer-member Estonia – did indicate to be interested in being kept informed of evolvement of the situation in East Turkestan. However, the extend to which the situation in East Turkestan will be analyzed by UN member states taking the floor, will have to be see on Friday 9 February 2009 when the PRC takes a stand to defend its human rights policy in the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.