'I am living in hell': Uyghur families hope tribunal will fuel international action on China's alleged genocide

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy looks ahead to Friday's tribunal

A people’s tribunal opens in London on Friday on allegations of genocide against Uyghurs in China. Dozens of witnesses are expected to give evidence and, while the tribunal’s judgment is not binding, organisers hope hearing the stark evidence will compel international action on the alleged abuses.

China has denounced it as a “violation of international law and order”.

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy, who has spoken to several Uyghur men and women, writes about the disturbing accounts she’s heard ahead of the tribunal.

Even before a word of evidence has been heard, the Uyghur tribunal has been denounced by China - “condemned and despised” the official government line. 

Chinese fury may well be based on the anticipation of what lies ahead. For years accusations of genocide and human rights abuses have been levelled at the Beijing government. 

Those allegations have never been subject to legal rigour until now. 

'I am living in hell, I am a dead person right now' - Nursiman Abdureshid's family were taken from their home to one of the camps. She does not know if her parents are dead or alive

Those allegations have been levelled from across the world. I have spoken to dozens of Uyghur men and women who tell disturbing accounts of their lives and the lives of their families. 

Nur looking through a family album. Credit: ITV News

The doctor living in exile who admitted carrying out forced abortions on fellow Uyghurs  before sterilising them.

Her description of discarding what she thought was a dead baby into a bucket after a late term abortion only to see its hand move, is one of the most haunting tales I have ever been told. 

The woman who now suffers dreadful health problems as a result of repeated gang rape having been held in one of the so-called re-educational camps. The daughter who has no idea where any of her family are; they have all disappeared and she has no idea whether they have lived or died.The father who spotted his little boy in a Chinese promotional video for a camp but has no idea where the toddler is today. 

'If my people can not be saved, humanity can say "we did do something"' - Nur, whose family have all been imprisoned in one of the camps, tells ITV News even if the tribunal does not stop the genocide, it will make the world listen

All their stories will contribute to this tribunal - they will be tested and assessed by an independent panel tasked to determine where the truth lies.Could they all be fabricating such tales, could the grief that has engulfed their worlds be fake, could admissions of dreadful crimes be made up? Or could they all be part of a state sanctioned genocide which seeks to wipe out their people and rid their homeland of their very being?China’s power of veto at the United Nations has put paid to any judgement of the allegations there. No chance to determine what has become of the one million Uyghur people who are said to have vanished into camps in that hallowed chamber.

That same veto has prevented any judgement on the alleged industrial scale human rights abuses said to be being perpetrated against Uyghur men and women. It is the same for the allegations of forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced harvesting of organs. 

'I'm trying to tell the world' - Rushan's sister, a retired medical doctor, was taken to one of the camps says the Chinese government are 'waging war on humanity'

Though the tribunal, headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the man who prosecuted the Serbian warlord Slobodan Milosevic, has no power of sanction, it is still groundbreaking.Under strict legal guidelines evidence will be taken from those who say they have witnessed, suffered or perpetrated crimes against the Uyghur people by Chinese authorities. 

A Uighur doctor spoke to ITV News. Credit: ITV News

If a genocide ruling is reached, it will allow governments and businesses a legal basis from which to assess future policy.Genocide has been described as “the crime of all crimes”, yet for all the talk, all the conventions and all the promises that “it must never happen again”, politics and power mean it will be down to a People’s Tribunal to pass judgement.

This is not the forum in which such accusations should be assessed but it is the only forum available to the Uyghur people and those who believe the horrific testimonies should be heard and judged.