Authorities must provide information on imprisoned Uyghur doctor: China


GENEVA (19 June 2024) – A UN expert today called on the Chinese authorities to provide information on the status of imprisoned Uyghur doctor Gulshan Abbas, believed to be serving a 20-year sentence since 2019 on terrorism-related charges.

“Nearly six years after her detention, Dr Abbas’ family members still do not have information on where she is being imprisoned, the evidence used to convict her, or most worryingly of all, her health condition,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. “I appeal to the Chinese authorities to comply with its international human rights obligations and at least furnish Dr Abbas’ family with this information.”

Dr Abbas, who reportedly has a number of health complications, was detained in September 2018 but no information was provided to her family regarding her detention, the charges against her, her trial or the prison in which she is being held. Official confirmation of the charges on which she was sentenced was only provided in December 2020 by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who stated in response to a question at a press conference that Dr Abbas had been jailed for “crimes of participating in a terrorist organisation, aiding terrorist activities and assembling crowds to disrupt social order”.

Dr Abbas, who was not engaged in any political or human rights activities, is the sister of US-based Uyghur human rights defender Rushan Abbas. Dr Abbas was detained six days after her sister criticised the alleged persecution of the Uyghur population in China while speaking at a public event in Washington D.C.

“I am appalled by the continued imprisonment of Gulshan Abbas in apparent retaliation for her sister’s criticism of the Chinese authorities’ treatment of Uyghurs,” the Special Rapporteur said. The expert noted that the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, highlighted in her 2022 report on human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), an alleged pattern of “intimidations, threats and reprisals” against family members of Uyghurs in exile who had engaged in advocacy in relation to XUAR.

UN experts have written to the government of China in relation to these concerns.

The expert: Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Endorsed: Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – China

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