On July 6, 2020, the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM) and the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) requested that the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) open an investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed by Chinese officials in East Turkistan (or Xinjiang). A press release posted on the ETGE’s website states that the complaint focuses on crimes “committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples.” The list of crimes to be investigated includes “murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced birth control and sterilization, and forced marriages.” The legal basis for this complaint was set in 2018 and 2019 when the ICC decided “that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes under Article 12(2)(a) of the Statute when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a signatory.” China has not signed the Rome Statute. However, because some of these crimes have taken place in Tajikistan and Cambodia (which are signatories to the Statute), the lawyers representing the plaintiffs assert that the Court has jurisdiction. A JURIST article notes that, “If the case proceeds to trial, it will reinforce … [the] precedent” set in 2018.
This announcement was followed by a July 9, 2020, statement by U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, announcing U.S. sanctions and visa restrictions for Chinese government officials believed to be responsible for these human rights abuses.