Human rights violations in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

Four years ago, a violent conflict began in the Southern regions of Cameroon, termed as the Anglophone Crisis, or the Ambazonia War. It began with protests by lawyers and teachers in Buea and Bamenda concerning the domination of the French language in these Anglophone regions. They saw this as an escalation of the already prominent marginalisation of Anglophones in Cameroon. The protests were an immensely popular movement; and on November 21, the so-called ‘coffin revolution’ occurred in Bamenda, demanding economic and political reforms. On October 1, 2017, military secessionist groups proclaimed the independence of a new nation, including these two regions, called Ambazonia. The conflict and political protests have further escalated following the Cameroon parliamentary election earlier this year, with both separatists and the government deploying additional and often excessive forces. Over the course of the conflict, an estimated 5000 people have been killed, and 680,000 displaced.

Numerous human rights violations have been carried out by both the Cameroon military forces and separatist fighters throughout the conflict. For instance, both factions allegedly targeted and carried out attacks on hospital and medical staff. On July 6, separatists killed a Doctors Without Borders health worker in the southwest region, while on June 30, security forces damaged a health facility in the northwest region. There have also been numerous accusations of killings, assaults and kidnappings of people with disabilities on both sides.

Furthermore, armed separatists have allegedly killed, assaulted and tortured several civilians from various groups, including students, teachers, clergy, women and children. On one occasion a group of separatists kidnapped around 40 people, beat and robbed them in Bafut, in the northwest region. Throughout the clash, separatists have used schools as their base, by enforcing boycotts of education, holding people hostage in them and deploying fighters and weapons from them. On February 16, separatists abducted a teacher, two guards and 170 students under the age of 18 from a boarding school in Kumbo in the northwest region, only releasing them  the following  day. 

Security forces have since cracked down on all instances of political opposition, whether evident or suspected. However, they have done so by killing civilians, torching villages, and using torture and incommunicado detentions. It thus comes as no surprise that this year has seen a widespread of reports of killings, property destruction and use of torture by authorities. One example of this being a brutal attack on the village of Meluf in the Northwest region where Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes and soldiers belonging to BIR (Rapid Intervention Battalion) forcefully entered 80 homes and burned down 7. The government has also responded with violence towards those suspected of having ties to separatist groups. Reports have emerged of severe beatings and near-drownings committed against suspects at the State Defence Secretariat prison in the capital, Yaounde. 

President Paul Biya faces increasing backlash and unrest in response to the bloodshed in Anglophone regions since the beginning of the crisis. Civilians and political parties, spearheaded by Maurice  Kamto ( who leads the Cameroon Renaissance Movement party), have been publicly calling for president Biya’s ouster, citing his 38-year tenure as head of state and lack of sufficient response to the crisis. On September 22, hundreds of people gathered in protests in Douala and Yaounde, calling for electoral reform and an end to the conflict, shouting slogans like ‘Paul Biya must go.’ Authorities responded with similar violence, breaking up peaceful protests, and arresting opposition party leaders and supporters.Tear gas and water cannons were also used to break up the protests, while hundreds of people, including 8 journalists, were unnecessarily arrested and detained. Authorities have since vowed to prosecute those arrested in the protests, and pursue those fleeing, while Mr Kamto remains under house arrest. The Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa has described this clampdown as “serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Dishearteningly, the government appears to have failed to take accountability by preventing efforts to document human rights violations in the Anglophone regions.  In April, a Human Rights Watch researcher was denied access to the country with no reason being provided for this decision. Following this, an investigation was due to be carried out into the alleged burning of 70 homes by security forces in Mankon, Bamenda – the corresponding report was expected by May 24 but has still yet to be seen.

Although France and member states of the African Union have either sided with the government or taken a neutral stance, the overall international response has been a mounting increase of pressure on Cameroon to call a ceasefire. In February, the United States announced that it was reducing its security assistance to Cameroon after allegations of human rights violations committed by the Cameroonian military emerged. In March, the UK called on Cameroon to engage with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, after expressing concern about the situation and lack of accountability in the Anglophone regions. Germany similarly announced an end of its military cooperation with Cameroon in July. Additionally, peace talks have taken place between the government and jailed leaders of the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG) in an attempt to find some common ground and progress towards a solution, however, despite this, the violence continues. Since January, at least 285 civilians have been killed in the northwest and southwest regions, while tens of thousands of people found themselves displaced over the past two months. The UN High Commissioner has expressed concerns over the allegations of human rights violations and the Cameroonian government’s efforts to prevent their coverage. Their most recent response has been to urge the government to carry out transparent investigations, going forward.


Human Rights Watch World Report 2020 (Cameroon):

Cameroon’s escalating Anglophone crisis shows little sign of abating:

Civilians Killed in Anglophone Regions:

Protestors call for end to bloodshed from Anglophone crisis:

Cameroon’s “president for life” is facing protests as the Anglophone crisis rumbles on:

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Author: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

Belarus protests and excessive force wielded by authorities

For more than a month now, Belarus has been gripped by mass demonstrations that center around the contested 2020 presidential election, during which President Alexander Lukashenko sought his sixth term in office. The protests are on an unprecedented scale, being the largest series of anti-government demonstrations since Mr. Lukashenko took office in 1994. From the night of the election onwards, it has become evident that police forces utilized indiscriminate violence against largely peaceful demonstrators, and reports have also emerged of excessive ill-treatment of protestors who were detained and arrested.

Ahead of the election this year, there was a government crackdown on opposition candidates, with two jailed and another forced to flee the country. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – currently the main opposition candidate – registered in place of her husband, Sergei Tikhavosky, who was considered among the top candidates before he was jailed. Brewing discontent with Mr. Lukashenko’s government was already apparent, with over 10,000 people rallying in support of Ms. Tikhanovskaya before the election.

Indicators of possible election fraud were apparent on August 9, voting day, with no independent observers invited to the election, and the commencing of an internet blackout lasting several days. Exit polls were released that evening, suggesting that Mr. Lukashenko won a landslide victory of 80% of the vote and that Ms. Tikhanovskaya only gained about 10%. However, she insisted that she polled 60-70% if the votes were counted fairly. The next day, Ms. Tikhanovskaya tried to complain about the falsified results to election authorities, but was detained and forced to leave for Lithuania.

Protestors quickly took to the streets – the night after the election, there were 3000 arrests in Minsk and other cities, with further nights seeing violent clashes and mass arrests throughout the country. During these post-election clashes, there have been widespread reports of alleged police violence against protestors. Video footage displays black-clad riot police firing tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, and water cannons to disperse largely peaceful crowds, killing at least one person. In Brest, police fired live rounds at protestors, injuring one. Last week, hundreds of women were detained during the ‘Sparkly March’ – the most recent in a series of all-women protests – and ambulances were called after several reportedly became unwell during their detentions.

By 19 August, at least 2000 of 7000 people who were detained by riot police were freed, and reports quickly emerged of ongoing ill-treatment of protestors in the detention facilities, such as repeated beatings, rape threats, and forcing protestors to endure overcrowded cells. 

Student Sasha Vilks showed a reporter his back and legs, badly bruised from truncheon blows.  “They called us terrorists and beat us severely on our legs and our backs,” he told reporters. “They would beat us first and then ask questions.”

Instances of violence and attempts to suppress journalists have also been recorded. At least 50 journalists, most of them citizens, were detained and many were deported. Yegor Martinovich, journalist, and editor of the independent online newspaper Nasha Niva, was detained in the crackdown and said that he and several others were beaten and refused food for half a day. Mr. Martinovich said that he, alongside 27 others, was put in a cell intended for only 12 people, and after his release, 10 more people were put in.

Later, the national police chief apologized to people “targeted indiscriminately” by the police, while the Interior Ministry opened a hotline for relatives trying to locate their loved ones. Yet the police force has failed to take accountability for excessive and indiscriminate conduct wielded against protestors. Amnesty International stated that no criminal cases were filed against police who injured and tortured hundreds of peaceful protestors, while dozens of cases were launched against protestors, with many lacking credible evidence of wrongdoing. In a statement, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, said, “The Belarusian authorities have to date refused to engage in a dialogue with the protesters, nor, apparently, have they taken steps to investigate the massive human rights violations committed by the police during the first few days of the post-election protests.” 

Meanwhile, the opposition’s efforts continue despite Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s exile. She launched a Coordination Council, constituting civil society activists and lawyers to negotiate a transfer of power, and has made several appeals to the international community for support to establish democracy in Belarus. 

Mr. Lukashenko has reacted with continuing hostility and refused negotiations with the council, and many senior members of the council were arrested on criminal charges. Later, he blamed the protestors and claimed that they assaulted the police, who were justified in their actions. On Wednesday, he took his oath of office in an unannounced inauguration ceremony in Minsk, taking local journalists and opposition by surprise. The ceremony has been described as a “thieves’ meeting” and a “farce” by leading opposition figures.

The accounts of violence and apparent impunity on the part of the police, as well as Mr. Lukashenko’s inauguration, has fuelled further outrage and large-scale demonstrations. On Sunday, at least 100,000 people gathered in Minsk to demand Mr. Lukashenko’s resignation and investigation into these human rights violations, in one of the largest gatherings in the country’s modern history. Tensions continue to rise in the capital since the inauguration, with protestors attempting to block roads and police vehicles – and video footage displays masked riot police using water cannons and batons against crowds as a response, resulting in bloody injuries to their heads.

International efforts to support Belarus are ongoing, with most of the world, including the UN, condemning the violence. 40 Belarusian officials face asset freezes and travel bans due to their role in the crackdown; and the European Union is preparing sanctions against Belarus – though foreign ministers currently face a deadlock over sanctions after a veto by Cyprus. Although Russia, traditionally Belarus’ closest ally, has endorsed the election results, many high-profile Russian politicians allied with the Kremlin called the election falsified and urged the president to step down. Police violence and failure to take accountability has also been denounced by UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet as a “clear violation of international human rights standards.”


What’s Happening in Belarus?:; 

Belarus: Police must be held accountable for violence:

‘Beating me without mercy’: Protestors freed from Belarus jails recount extreme police brutality:

Lukashenko’s surprise inauguration:

Hundreds of women detained during Belarus protest march:

Belarus: Mass protests after Lukashenko secretly sworn in: 

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Author: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor: Zora Stanik

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

Digital Evidence Verification Interview with Dr Irving

The increasing presence of digital technologies in the 21st century has been recognised as a new accountability mechanism within the international law community. International bodies are increasingly incorporating this type of evidence into fact-finding and prosecutions for crimes committed in conflict zones – for instance, in August 2017, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Libyan military commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, based on social media videos depicting him allegedly committing war crimes such as the murder of non-combatants.

In light of our Digital Evidence Verification project this summer, we conducted an interview with Dr Emma Irving, Assistant Professor of Public International Law at Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University. Dr Irving has been closely collaborating with EIJI on the project, and her current research is based around the scope of digital evidence in fact-finding and legal accountability. The interview provides an overview of digital evidence as an upcoming tool to prosecute, as well as some of the inherent problems or misconceptions surrounding this type of evidence.

Introduction and scope of digitally-derived evidence:

1. Would you categorise digital verification as an up-and-coming tool in the international law community, and briefly outline how you, personally, have found this tool to be useful in practice?

I would definitely describe digital verification – and online investigations more broadly – as up and coming tools in the international law community. A number of different international law actors are using these approaches now. For example, as far as States are concerned, The Gambia used screenshots from Facebook when putting forward arguments in favour of the granting of provisional measures against Myanmar in the ICJ case involving those two countries. Where UN human rights fact-finding bodies are concerned, the Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar and the Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory both employed online investigation techniques and digital verification tools when compiling their findings. And then, of course, there are criminal courts. The ICC has used these tools for some time in collecting and assessing evidence, most notably in the Al-Werfalli and Al-Mahdi cases. Domestic courts prosecuting international crimes under universal jurisdiction have turned to online sources and digital verification to build cases against individuals accused of committing war crimes – particularly in Syria. Whenever we see digital content of this type being used, we can reasonably expect that digital verification processes have taken place prior to that content being presented.

In terms of my personal experience, I have found these tools to be useful in supporting the work of advocacy groups. Whether these groups are seeking to build cases against certain individuals for potential prosecution in a criminal court, or whether they are using the tools for a broader advocacy strategy.

2. How can international lawyers use digital evidence collected by those outside of the legal community (e.g videos filmed by NGOs, social media uploads by civilians, etc.) to hold individuals, organisations or authorities accountable?

Digital material – whether open source or closed source** – can be helpful for organisations seeking to build a fuller picture of events in a given location or at a given time. Verified digital material, including videos, photos, satellite images, etc. can help to corroborate witness testimonies and generally bolster existing evidence. The material is particularly helpful for building a picture of what’s happening in places that are inaccessible to outsiders and where it is hard to document using more traditional documentation methods.

** Open source evidence concerns publicly accessible platforms, such as videos uploaded to social media, whereas closed source evidence is usually unavailable to the public.

Adapting to digital verification in the international law community:

3. In your opinion, what steps can be taken at an educational level and in the practising workplace to improve the handling of digital evidence in international law? How long would you expect before there is a noticeable difference in the handling/use of digital technology in the legal community? 

To improve the handling of digital evidence in international law fora, consensus needs to emerge on what the best practices are. This is a process that is currently ongoing, as different organisations work to develop guidelines and protocols on the collection, preservation, and presentation of digital content as evidence. As with innovations of the past, some trial and error will likely be needed before the international community settles on an agreed set of best practices. It is difficult to anticipate all potential challenges and problems ahead of time, and patience will be needed as these things are figured out.

Digital evidence as an accountability mechanism:

4. In June 2019, the Sudanese government cut off internet access in an attempt to end mass protests. In the event of such censorship and exertion of executive power by authorities, how could the international community continue to ensure accountability when digital evidence is seemingly unavailable?

When governments cut internet access this is regrettable, as it limits what the international community can see. That being said, just because the internet is cut off does not mean that individuals on the ground do not continue to record what they see and make important content. The key is to create pathways for this content to be received by the appropriate actors – both within a country and outside it – when connectivity is restored.

Complications of using digital evidence as a tool to prosecute:

5. Could you elaborate on some of the possible dangers such as misuse or manipulation of digital evidence in international law? What legal requirements can be put in place to mitigate this weaponization of digital evidence?

There are too many potential problems to cover, so I will limit myself to just two. First, there is a danger that digital content will be given too much importance, at the expense of other kinds of evidence. Digital evidence, as with all types of evidence, should only ever be one part of a bigger evidentiary puzzle that is completed using a range of evidence. It should not eclipse evidence of other types, such as interviews and forensic work. Digital evidence will not be the solution to all the problems facing international accountability, but instead is a tool that has been added to the armoury of investigators. 

Second, it is important to bear in mind that not all kinds of international crimes and human rights violations are visible through digital investigation methods. For example, while we may have a large number of execution videos being posted online, digital material depicting conflict-related sexual violence is much less common. When approaching digital evidence, therefore, it is important to keep an open mind as to whether the full range of unlawful behaviour is being addressed.

EIJI would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr Irving for not only her help on the Digital Evidence Verification Project but also for conducting this interview. We look forward to continuing our work with her throughout the rest of the academic year.

Guest Expert: Dr. Emma Irving

Author: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

The fall of Srebrenica, 25 years on

A quarter of a century ago, a brutal conflict was raging in Bosnia. The disintegration of Yugoslavia had triggered a civil war pitting the different ethnic groups in the former socialist federal republic against each other: Bosniak Muslims, Croats and Serbs. By the summer of 1995, the war was three years old. It had already cost thousands of innocent lives and been defined by episodes of ‘ethnic cleansing’ – the forced displacement of unwanted population groups to create ethnically homogenous territories. The Bosnian Serb side, in particular, had been frequently accused of such attacks on civilian populations. However, in eastern Bosnia, during July 1995, a series of killings would occur which are now considered to have been the worst episode of mass murder on European soil since 1945. 

On 6th July, the Bosnian Serb army began shelling the town of Srebrenica, where 40,000 Bosniak Muslim civilians were sheltering. Soon, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was seen in Srebrenica’s streets, handing out chocolates to children and telling civilians that they had nothing to worry about. In truth, at the same time as he was publicly reassuring these civilians, his troops were separating military-aged Bosniak men from the women and children. The women and children were loaded onto buses and driven to refugee shelters in nearby towns. The men and teenage boys were loaded onto trucks and driven to the hills outside Srebrenica. Over the coming days, they were killed and dumped into mass graves, often with their hands tied behind their backs. The murders of more than 8,000 men would turn this part of eastern Bosnia into a killing field. 

Srebrenica was designated in United Nations Security Council Resolution 819 as a ‘safe area’ for civilians from April 1993. The UN had initially estimated that some 34,000 peacekeepers would be needed on the ground to ensure the safety of Srebrenica and a handful of other towns that were declared ‘safe areas’. However, member-states had only contributed some 7,400 peacekeepers. A Dutch battalion was assigned to protect Srebrenica. But these troops were 150 in number and lightly armed, as opposed to 2,000 well-equipped Bosnian soldiers, who began shelling Srebrenica in July 1995. Commanders on the ground assessed that the troops would not be able to withstand the assault unless supported from above. But those higher up in the UN’s chain of command, reluctant to take any steps that would put their troops in danger, refused repeated requests for close air support. Outnumbered and unsupported, the Dutch troops were unable to prevent the separation of men from women and the deportations that followed. The 40,000 civilians in and around Srebrenica were at the mercy of Ratko Mladic and his troops. A now-infamous photo, taken just before the mass killings began, shows Dutch UN commander Thomas Karremans sharing a drink with Mladic. The events in Srebrenica in July 1995 occurred despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping force and happened to people whose safety the international community had pledged to guarantee. 

Initially, UN officials did not expect any mass atrocities at Srebrenica to be imminent, believing Mladic’s assurances. However, by 13th July, Dutch peacekeepers had begun encountering civilian bodies in the Srebrenica countryside, as a subsequent UN inquiry found. In the following days, Western media began relaying the accounts of survivors and aid workers on the ground. On July 24th, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in former Yugoslavia, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, ended a week-long investigation with the conclusion that of the 40,000 civilians living in Srebrenica before the Bosnian Serb attack, 7,000 could not be accounted for – they were missing. Three days later, he resigned from his post, accusing the international community of having been too slow to act on the evidence of atrocities in Srebrenica, and of risking a repetition in Zepa, the next safe zone singled out for Serb attacks.

As more and more witnesses spoke out, evidence was accumulating in Western capitals. On August 10, at a closed-door session of the Security Council, Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN, presented enlarged photos taken by US spy satellites, suggesting the presence of mass graves in the area around Srebrenica. News of the massacre served as a catalyst for a developing shift in the international community’s approach to the Bosnian war. At a July conference in London, the US and other states agreed to end the ‘dual-key’ policy, which had required air support requests for UN peacekeepers in Bosnia to be signed off by both a civilian UN and a military NATO commander, as a result of which most requests were denied or stalled. The NATO operation in Bosnia became more robust, employing airstrikes to deter and prevent further atrocities. By July 1995, the Bosnian war had lasted three years. After the Srebrenica massacre, it was brought to an end within five months. 

The international community may have proved unable to prevent the slaughter at Srebrenica. But it was not going to let the perpetrators get away unpunished. The next chapter in the story was just beginning. 

Chasing the perpetrators

In May 1993, the UN Security Council had adopted Resolution 827, providing for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the ICTY), with the aim of trying and punishing those responsible for atrocities in the Yugoslav wars. The Tribunal’s prosecutor began collecting evidence against those involved in the killings at Srebrenica and other atrocities. In November 1995, as the Dayton Accords ending the Bosnian war were drafted, indictments were filed charging Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and General Mladic with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes over the events at Srebrenica. Confirming the indictments, ICTY judge Fouad Riad described the alleged crimes at Srebrenica as “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history”.  

In August 2001, General Radislav Krstic – one of Mladic’s men – was found guilty of genocide at Srebrenica, and sentenced to 46 years in prison. Three years later, the Appeals Chamber would reduce his sentence and downgrade the degree of culpability attributed to him, but uphold the finding that genocide occurred at Srebrenica:

“…Bosnian Serb forces carried out genocide against the Bosnian Muslims (…). Those who devise and implement genocide seek to deprive humanity of the manifold richness its nationalities, races, ethnicities and religions provide. This is a crime against all humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group targeted for destruction, but by all of humanity. – Appeals Chamber decision on Radislav Krstic’s appeal, 19 April 2004.

At the time of Krstic’s conviction and appeal, his superiors – Karadzic and Mladic – had still not been captured. Karadzic evaded justice until July 2008, when Serbian authorities arrested and surrendered him to The Hague, after 13 years on the run. Mladic was not apprehended until May 2011, when he was also extradited to stand trial before the ICTY. On March 24, 2016, Karadzic was convicted of the Srebrenica genocide, alongside a number of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and sentenced to 40 years in prison (later increased to a life sentence on appeal). In November 2017, the Tribunal handed down a life sentence against Ratko Mladic. 

These convictions stand against the persistent efforts by some, especially in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, to deny the facts or rewrite history. In 2018, Serbian Prime minister Ana Brnabic, while acknowledging Srebrenica as a ‘terrible massacre’, told press she did not believe it amounted to genocide. In 2015, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica, objecting to the use of the term genocide and the resolution’s criticism of any attempts to deny it. In 2018, Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska (the governing entity for the Serb parts of Bosnia under the 1995 peace agreement) set up a commission to assess events at Srebrenica, after overturning the findings of a previous such commission which had in 2004 acknowledged the death toll at Srebrenica, and accepted the ICTY’s legal assessment of the facts (and caused Dodik’s predecessor to make a televised apology to the victims). Dodik, by contrast, has stated that he believes some of the victims of the 1995 genocide are still alive. But the conclusion that events at Srebrenica meet the legal definition of genocide is backed up by international law: for not only the ICTY affirmed several times that the atrocities of July 1995 constituted genocide: the International Court of Justice in 2007 came to the same conclusion when it decided the issue in Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro). The US Senate and the European Parliament, among others, have adopted resolutions acknowledging these findings by international jurists. 

Dutchbat and the Mothers of Srebrenica

And yet, there was another battle for accountability to be fought. Relatives of victims of the genocide (the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’) have spent years fighting in courts to hold the Dutch government accountable for the failure of its peacekeeping troops. The fact that grave mistakes were made is now beyond doubt: a report presented to the UN General Assembly in 1999 concluded that “through error, misjudgment and an inability to recognize the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.” In 2002, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation blamed political failures and misjudgments for having led to the events at Srebrenica, noting that the Dutch troops had been sent “to keep the peace where there was no peace” to keep. The Dutch government of the day resigned in response to these findings. But the question of legal responsibility was yet to be settled. The UN’s immunity from suit was confirmed by the Dutch courts and by the European Court of Human Rights. As for the Netherlands, Dutch courts have found that their state was responsible for the eviction of 350 men from a UN compound near Srebrenica in July 1995, a decision that resulted in these men being killed by Bosnian Serb forces. A Dutch appeal court’s finding that the Netherlands were liable for 30% of the damages resulting from the killings was reversed last July by the country’s supreme court, which reduced the Dutch share of liability to a mere 10%. This latest decision, as of January 2020, is again being challenged by the Mothers of Srebrenica in the European Court of Human Rights. 

25 years on, the memory of the Srebrenica genocide needs to be kept alive, its victims honoured. What happened in July 1995 remains a searing indictment of the fatal consequences of an international community unwilling to do what it takes to prevent mass atrocities. What happened in the years since is more of a reason for optimism. A determined effort to try and punish the architects of the Srebrenica genocide has been successful, most notably in the cases of Karadzic and Mladic, but also in a number of other genocide convictions handed down by the ICTY and local courts in the former Yugoslavia: by July 2018, a survey found that the Hague tribunal and domestic courts together had sentenced some 45 people to prison terms totaling 699 years in length (plus 3 life sentences) in connection with Srebrenica. With its reasoned and evidence-based findings, the work of the ICTY (and the ICJ) has helped solidify the world’s knowledge of what happened at Srebrenica, and produced a historical record of the genocide which serves as a powerful antidote to any attempt to deny, mischaracterize or forget history. 


Power, Samantha: ‘A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide’, New York, 2003. 

Robertson, Geoffrey: ‘Crimes against Humanity: the struggle for global justice’, London, 2012. 

UN General Assembly, “Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 53/35: the fall of Srebrenica”, 15 November 1999, A/54/549 

Karcic, Hikmet, “Denying and glorifying the Srebrenica genocide is inspiring extremists around the world”, EuroNews, 11 July 2020, 

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Guest Author: David Zuther

Editor: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

The BLM protests and excessive force utilised by U.S. police officers

On 25 May, 2020, George Floyd died in Minneapolis, United States, after he was stopped by police on suspicion of using counterfeit money. Floyd was pinned by officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck, despite Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe, and died shortly after. 

Floyd’s death sparked a series of protests across major US cities regarding systemic racism and excessive force used by police officers against the black community. While many protests were and continue to be peaceful, there were individuals participating in violence, such as burning and looting stores. However, it has become evident that police forces have utilised indiscriminate and excessive violence against demonstrators, seemingly failing to distinguish (as legally required) between peaceful protestors and those individuals acting unlawfully. 

Amnesty International documented 125 acts of excessive force committed by state personnel, local police departments, National Guard troops, and federal security forces from the 26th of May till the 5th of June. These violations include beatings, indiscriminate use of tear gas, pepper spray, and inappropriate firing of less-lethal projectiles such as rubber bullets. Acts of violence against peaceful protestors have been documented across 40 states and the District of Columbia, displaying their broad geographical scope across the US. For instance, on 1 June in Lafayette Park, Washington DC, DC National Guardsmen and National Park Police committed a range of human rights violations against protestors. These include tossing ‘stinger ball’ grenades and firing rubber pellets in all directions. In Iowa City, Iowa, local police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades against kneeling protestors. Police in Huntington Beach, California fired pepper balls at crowds who were similarly lying on the streets. 

Instances of police violence against journalists have also been recorded. Ed Ou was reporting protests in Minneapolis, where curfews and riot control measures were imposed after a surge in looting and theft of stores when he was targeted by concussive grenades and tear-gassed. As of 4 June there were 192 reports of attacks on journalists, including an Australian news crew. The attacks received international condemnation, such as Australian politician Anthony Albanese calling them harassment against members of the media.

However, this is not the first time that US police face accusations of violating international human rights through overuse of deadly force. A recent study from the University of Chicago found that none of the police departments in the 20 largest cities are complying with the minimum standards of conduct set out by international laws. Specific requirements under scrutiny are that lethal force should only be used as a last resort, or when facing an immediate threat. Reports of recent deaths of black people under police custody demonstrate prior – and continuing – violations of the aforementioned requirements across the US. For instance, on 13 March 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot in her home by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, who entered without knocking or announcing a search warrant. Floyd was pinned under Chauvin’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, although video footage displays him seemingly complying with his arrest. On 12 June, Rayshard Brooks was shot twice while running away from a police officer, although prosecutors state that he posed no immediate threat. By contrast, policing policies across Europe require an escalating series of measures prior to deadly force. In Spain, officers must use verbal cautioning and fire warning shots before directly aiming at anybody, while chokeholds have been long banned across Europe. The study concludes that US police officers are given too much deadly discretion, which has contributed to police killings of unarmed black people in non-threatening situations. 

Responses to the protests have been significant on a local, national and international level. Lawmakers and city councils began enacting a series of measures to prevent deadly police conduct when Black Lives Matter protests began back in 2013, but their effectiveness has been widely questioned in the recent demonstrations. Despite the requirement for police officers to wear body cameras, research shows that the killings have not stopped, the cameras have almost never yielded charges or convictions, and have instead been more readily used in prosecuting civilians. Elijah McClain died after being put in a chokehold in Colorado last year. The three officers involved in the incident later reported that each of their body cameras had fallen off during the encounter. Charges against them were subsequently dropped. The potential for police tampering of body cameras and the lack of accountability in such measures has since been recognised. “Not only is it ineffective in stopping police violence, it actually expands the powers and surveillance capabilities of police,” said Mohamed Shehk, of the abolitionist group Critical Resistance. Recent scrutiny of the failure of previous reforms to stop brutality has led to a significant increase in abolitionist groups. Following calls to defund the police, the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband their police department. 

However, on a national level, the Trump administration faces widespread criticism and accusations of encouraging unlawful use of force against peaceful demonstrations. On 1 June, 2020, police and National Guard troops allegedly used tear gas and other riot control agents to forcefully clear protestors from Lafayette Square, so that Mr Trump and other senior officials could walk from the White House to St John’s Episcopal Church. In his speech outside the White House, Mr Trump also threatened to use the US army to tackle the “violent mobs” who he said are drowning out peaceful protests, in order to stop the “rioting, looting and wanton destruction of property.” This prompted condemnation by several former US military chiefs such as James Mattis, John Allen, Martin Dempsey, and Michael Mullen, while the clearing of protestors in Lafayette Square was criticised as an injustice against the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly. 

Floyd’s death has sparked worldwide protests, and the United Nations Human Rights Council held an Urgent Debate on 17 June regarding police violence against demonstrators and killings of black people in the US. The final resolution pledges to investigate systemic racism and human rights violations committed by law enforcement agencies against the black community. Most notable are the criticisms expressed by the UN regarding the government’s response to protests. The resolution calls upon the High Commissioner to investigate the US government’s “alleged use of excessive force against protestors, bystanders and journalists.” UN independent experts criticised US Attorney General William Barr’s use of the term “domestic terrorism” to denote alleged violence committed by Antifa and other protest movements, in a statement that “terrorism rhetoric” undermines the legitimacy of the protests and freedom of expression. Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin said that responding to protests and violence through a lens of “counter-terrorism” could fuel further tensions, and urged the US government to instead adopt a “human rights-based approach” to the protests.


George Floyd: Why are there huge protests in the US and around the world? :

Teargassed, beaten up, arrested: what freedom of the press looks like in the US right now:

‘State-sanctioned violence’: US police fail to meet basic human rights standards :

George Floyd protests: Has policing changed? :

Elijah McClain: Colorado to review black man’s death in custody :

Ex-military chiefs add to criticism of Trump over protest response :

Human Rights Council calls on top UN rights official to take action on racist violence :

Mapping police violence across the USA :

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organisation that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University.*

Author: Nikita Nandanwad

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik


The Edinburgh International Justice Initiative stands with the BLM movement and the insurance of human rights and international justice everywhere. In light of current events and protests around the world, EIJI has decided to collaborate with Leiden University to conduct a Digital Evidence Verification Project. This project will focus on verifying footage of excessive force used by police officers during protests to compile evidence that can be used in litigation and advocacy. We are looking for passionate student volunteers, regardless of major, to join our new legal research team. If you are passionate about current events in the United States or Hong Kong then this is an amazing opportunity to become directly involved in making a real difference and de-institutionalizing racism and excessive force in the justice system.

EIJI seeks to bridge gaps in the international justice system and highlight international human rights law issues around the world through our research and writings. Our partners at Leiden University will be providing expert training to our volunteer researchers so no prior knowledge of digital verification is necessary to become involved in this fantastic two-month-long summer project. All prospective researchers should be willing and able to commit at least 25 hours a week and should be extremely passionate about international justice and its research. The submission deadline for the application posted below is 12:00 pm on June 11th and interviews will follow from the 12th till the 14th. We hope to hear from many of you soon and look forward to viewing your applications and getting started on this pertinent project.

Author: Zora Stanik

Editor: Shy Zvouloun

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

Spotlight Interview: Meghan Ingram (EIJI’s Head of Acquisitions)

Recently we interview Meghan Ingram our Head of Acquisitions regarding her role in EIJI and her responsibilities within the team. This inside look into her position provides as both informative and clarifying for anyone considering taking on this job opening in September. Remember applications close at 12 AM this Sunday, so please read more about this exciting position and we look forward to hearing from you!

1.  Introduction (Name, Year, Study and what your experiences have been before joining EIJI?)

Meghan Ingram, 4th year Psychology and Sociology. Prior to joining EIJI, I had been heavily involved in Enactus Edinburgh, a social enterprise society at uni – I helped start one of the social enterprises and then went on to become president of the society. I was also a member of the Swimming and Water Polo Club although spent very little time actually in the pool. Outside of Uni, I have done two different human rights / criminal law internships, one with a law firm in London and the other with the Social Responsibility department at Unilever Kenya. 

2. Why did you join EIJI? 

I am very interested in international criminal law and international human rights law, but as a non-law student, I didn’t know how to get experience in this field or even find out more. When the opportunity to be a part of the EIJI came up, I saw it as a great way to learn more about the area, potential career prospect within it, and a chance to build up the key skills and relevant experience. 

3. What is your role? What do you do? 

My role within the EIJI is ‘Head of Acquisition’ – a fancy term for recruiting our clients and supervisors. This means that I reach out to all of the names and organizations on our contact list as well as doing my own research to find more international institutions that may benefit from the work we do. Once initial interest has been expressed, I typically set up a call to hear more about the potential project or supervisor, making sure that it, or they, are in line with what we strive to do at EIJI. From there, I go through a series of steps and criteria to ultimately on-board the project or supervisor that will work best with our team. This past year we have worked with 3 international NGOs or institutions and have had 3 supervisors on-board our team – an achievement I am very proud of. 

4. What is your favorite part of the role? 

My favorite part of the role is having the opportunity to talk to people from all over the world and hear their stories and backgrounds. We work with incredible people and for life-changing projects, initially hearing about these has never failed to intrigue me and provides the motivation to keep moving the clinic forwards. 

5. What is the highlight of your time here? Alternatively, the thing you are the most proud of? 

I joined the EIJI when it was little more than an idea my friend Matthias, the now director of the clinic had. Seeing the EIJI grow from this into a fully-functioning clinic, recruiting students with the same passions that I had, and working with amazing people from all over the world, is the highlight of my time here. I am incredibly proud of everything the team has done and feel honoured to have had the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing group. 

6. What kind of people have you interacted with as Head of Acquisition? 

I’ve interacted with early-career professionals to international criminal law / human rights law veterans, senior NGO members, and clinic directors. The list is exhaustive – It’s the best way to find out more about different institutions and gain contacts from key organizations from all over the world. This role is the ultimate networking position. 

7. What is the most important skills you have learned in your role?

Being a part of the EIJI is unlike many other student-run initiatives. It requires a new level of professionalism and initiative as we’re working with senior level individuals for really important causes. Particularly in my role, I have really developed and drawn on these two qualities as it has always been my aim to represent the EIJI as best as possible. The clinic would not be successfully functioning if it wasn’t for the Head of Acquisition role so having the initiative, organization, time management and communication skills is critical. If I didn’t have these skills before joining the team, I definitely do now.

Everything You Don’t Know About U.S. Drone Strikes

Recently, Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian general was killed in a U.S. drone attack which has re-sparked debates on the U.S. justifications for violence, how ‘ethical’ drone warfare really is, and the ideology of military humanism. Today, drone warfare has become a prominent tactic within militarist strategies. On the surface, it seems to target specific dangerous insurgents whilst sparing the lives of innocent civilians and increasing the likelihood of U.S. soldiers coming home. In reality, some reports point towards the horrific realization that drone strikes inevitably kill substantial numbers of civilians whilst creating a culture of terror. Ultimately, drone warfare has blurred the lines between legality and illegality, civilian and combat, war and peace. 

Drones are used in various ways, the ultimate goal being, the elimination of threatening individuals and situations. In essence, drone technology conducts two different types of strikes: ‘personality strikes’ and ‘signature strikes’. ‘Personality strikes’ target specific individuals who have been tracked and whose names appear on a blacklist. The drones can circle in the air for up to 40 hours whilst relaying video footage and details of cell phone calls to centres in the Middle East, Europe or America. If enough ‘evidence’ is accumulated the drone can issue strikes if there are no, or few civilians nearby. 

The evidence accumulated to justify an attack varies immensely depending on the situation. For example, in the past drone operators have admitted that there have been cases where the only evidence they have to link a person on the ground to a name on their list is the fact that the person is in possession of the identified target’s mobile phone. Evidence is also sourced from local informants who will reveal to the U.S. potentially threatening people or the location of the target’s house. Yet, such evidence is certainly unreliable because these local informants may be tempted by large sums of money to point fingers at innocent people in order to settle a feud. Pakistani Anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed states that tribesmen ‘seemed to be playing their own devious games with the drones’. Furthermore, it is troubling to think that the evidence used by the U.S. to condone a strike could be misinformation.

‘Signature strikes,’ involve people who are targeted based on them exhibiting a particular appearance or behaviour in accordance with what is labelled as ‘threatening’. Some behaviour profiling is clear-cut such as firing on U.S. troops, however, there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to ‘signature strikes.’ For example, behaviour such as digging may constitute enough evidence for a strike but this does not necessarily mean the target is burying an Improvised Exploding Device (IED). One tragic case occurred in 2011 when a drone operator attacked a convoy of families in Afghanistan because they prayed at dawn. This religiosity gave the mistaken impression that they were Taliban. The attack killed over a dozen children. 

In some instances, the killing of innocent civilians is justified by U.S. military lawyers through granting that the civilians are ‘proportionate’ to the risk of the target. In other words, they have the power to decide if the killing of civilians is acceptable and in accordance with the laws of war given the perceived risk of the target. Software such as Bugsplat calculates the probable repercussions in relation to the selected placement of the missile. According to an investigation team from Der Spiegal, drone operators have, in the past, been pushed by their superiors to stretch the justifications for a strike. For instance, the investigation discovered that only women, children and the elderly were treated as civilians. By only considering women, children, and the elderly as civilians it enables the U.S. to conduct more drone strikes since ‘officially’ there is ‘less’ risk of killing innocent non-combatants. 

Drone warfare has been portrayed by U.S. officials as the ‘clean, surgical excision of insurgents who were terrorizing the local population’. This is known as ‘drone essentialism,’ the false claim that drones minimize suffering. The U.S. National Security and leaders defend U.S. drone warfare by claiming it shows a kinder and gentler discourse of fighting and that it is more in line with international law than alternative weaponry and tactics such as torture. The CIA director, John Brennan argued that ‘it is hard to imagine a tool that can better minimize risk to civilians than remotely piloted aircraft.’ Such ideas allow for ‘ethical slipping’ where drone operators relax their operational practises. This process enables drones to become weapons of terror and be used to discriminate against innocent victims. It seems that the United States can use drone strikes to campaign terror in a foreign territory causing significant civilian casualties, whilst also continuing the American principle of acting with restraint and humanitarian concern. Such a statement is a good example of ‘Military humanism,’ a concept where war is represented as an unfortunate obligation which has been begrudgingly thrust upon a nation through the dysfunctional way that the world works; conclusively, the United States is forced to take salvationist responsibility for the greater good of society. 

Currently, according to the Bureau of Investigative journalism between 910-2,181 civilians have been killed by drone strikes. However, the realities of drone strikes are difficult to fully comprehend since ‘the United States has to date failed to reveal its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft in classified operations.’ The U.S. has repeatedly dismissed the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s inquisition into the concerning effects that drone warfare has on the civilians on the ground. In particular, disagreeing with the estimate that at least 400 civilians have died in Pakistan drone strikes. Brennan has said that the claims of high civilian casualties amount to ‘disinformation’. He also stated that in 2010 ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency and precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.’ However, as law professor Christiane Wilke points out, it is difficult to identify who is considered to be a civilian because the status of a civilian or non-civilian is blurred, and drone operators may not confidently know how many people lie inside a collapsed building. 

Human Rights organisation, Reprieve, tracked official U.S. announcements of successful kills and found that there were 41 instances claiming that the same insurgent leader had been killed in many different drone strikes. This alone highlights the danger drone strikes pose due to drone operators wrongly believing that someone on the ground is a match with someone on their ‘kill list’. Disappointingly, British Lawyer Ben Emmerson notes that operations that kill civilians are not necessarily illegal under international law, but national states do have a duty of transparency where there are credible allegations of non-combatants being harmed. 

The persistent buzzing of the drones instils profound psychological and effects within targeted societies. Such effects are especially visible within children’s behaviour. For example, Michael Kugelam reports, ‘I have heard Pakistanis speak about children in the tribal areas who become hysterical when they hear the characteristic buzz of a drone.’ Waziristan, which is located in the ‘tribal area’ of Pakistan, has probably endured the most drone strikes per square mile than any other place on earth. This has inevitably created a culture of terror. The terror in part alludes from the confusion of not knowing what type of behaviour will get them killed. For example, a doctor might have no way of knowing that the patient he is treating is on the U.S. target list. Strict rules of hospitality within the Pashtun honour code eliminates people’s choice to refuse potential targets into their guesthouses because of the peer pressure, cowardice and loss of face that this would bring. Therefore, innocent people are being framed as threatening due to a lack of cultural understanding. Drone strikes are inevitably forcing a sense of powerlessness, anticipatory anxiety and dread upon targeted regions. 

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of drone strikes is what is known as the ‘Double tap strikes’ which are favoured more by the CIA than military commanders. Double tap strikes are when drone operators launch further attacks against those who help the targets of the original attack. These are also used against those who attend the funerals of the original target. However, culturally the Pashtunwali honour code in Waziristan may compel men to attend funerals of their enemies as well as their friends. Such forms of attacks have been condemned by human rights lawyers as war crimes. UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heynes states that those pulling survivors out of the rubble are just as likely to be Good Samaritans as they are insurgents. To further this point Clive Stafford, the lawyer in charge of the charity Reprieve, argues that double tap strikes ‘are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield.’ 

Many view drone warfare as taking the moral high ground, believing that this technology is unprecedented in its ability to target insurgents whilst sparing the lives of innocent civilians. However, in the words of General David Deptula, ‘the real advantage of unmanned aerial systems is that they allow you to project power without projecting vulnerability.’ Understandably, the United States turned to drones because they offered a way to kill the enemy without risking the lives of American soldiers. Yet, drone technologies should not be seen as a solution to warfare. It is evident that there is too large a disconnect between drone operators and the real consequences occurring on the ground. This creates a double standard that allows the U.S. to preach human rights and morality whilst simultaneously killing innocent children. Furthermore, in order to keep within the proposed concept of military humanism, this dichotomy needs to be clarified and the suffering of others made more visible by holding the U.S. accountable for their actions and lack of transparency.


Hugh Gusterson, Drone Warfare in Waziristan and the New Military Humanism, 19 Feb 2019, Current Anthropology, Vol. 60, 19. 

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content philosophy.*

Author: Bella Eperon

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

Human Rights Violation in China’s Hidden Camps

In recent months China’s ruling Communist party claims to have established ‘re-education’ camps which provide “free job training” for Chinese citizens. These camps have emerged predominantly in the Xinjiang region to offer an escape from poverty and provide unfortunate individuals with new opportunities. However, in light of leaked documents, it has become evident that these ‘re-education’ camps are in reality not simply for the average Chinese citizen. Rather, this has become a targeted system of forced labor for a sought out minority group. The Chinese Communist party seem to be targeting their Muslim population, in particular the Uighurs and Kazakhs. 

There has been speculation that inside these camps numerous human rights violations have occurred such as mass rape, forced abortions and sterilisations, organ harvesting, and experimental medical procedures as well as torture and undocumented cases of death. Due to media censorship in the People’s Republic of China, much of the evidence on these violations are scarce. The internet is effectively banned from Xinjiang and all foreign journalists are closely monitored, making it impossible to conduct interviews or gather concrete evidence. Chinese officials have dismissed any documents as fake news and when the UN panel questioned a senior Chinese official he denied allegations of forced labour and claimed that the camps were ‘vocational schools for criminals’. 

Nevertheless, there is an overwhelming surplus of personal accounts, documentation, and inconsistencies. The Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement released information that identified 465 camps in Xinjiang, including ‘182 suspected Concentration Camps, 209 suspected prisons, and 74 suspected Bingtuan labor camps’. Images of these were captured using Google Earth Satellite imagery.

The varied branding of each of these camps allows for immense ambiguity that further muddles the global disquisition on this issue. Some appear to be voluntary training camps, prison camps, mass detention camps, and others as ‘re-education’ camps. Often such compounds act as feeder-camps that funnel individuals into forced labour factories. Satellite images show the close proximity of the factories to the camps suggesting an agenda to quickly transfer inmates to the factories upon “release”.  

Leaked documents describe the camps as training centres with detailed plans of uprooting villages, restricting personal freedoms, and pressuring or forcing inmates to stay in their jobs. Other documents clearly state that the camps should run like high-security prisons including military-style training, strict discipline, and punishment. The camps are often located amongst desert dunes surrounded by high walls and some have barbed wire and security cameras. One statement, in particular, instructs that ‘the students should have a fixed bed position, fixed queue position, fixed classroom seat, and fixed station during skills work, and it is strictly forbidden for this to be changed.’ This exemplifies the extreme restrictions placed upon the Uighur community and highlights the overbearing limitations imposed upon their everyday activities. 

Furthermore, sexual violence within this controversy has largely gone unnoticed and hasn’t been thoroughly discussed in the media as of yet. There have been reports and personal accounts of women and girls being raped by guards in front of the masses within some of these camps. 

Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh, was forced to work in one of the women’s camps in Xinjiang. She informed Israeli newspaper Haaretz that in the evenings, the guards would choose ‘pretty’ inmates, put bags over their heads and then suspiciously return the females to their rooms in the morning. She also claims to have witnessed cases of gang rape, she describes one particular occurrence including other inmates being forced to watch a man rape a woman. Shamseden states talk amongst the Muslim women alludes to rape as a common occurrence inside the camps as well as outside the camp walls, in which Uighur women are forced into situations where issues of sexual harassment and abuse are likely, such as through the the ‘Pair-up and Become Family Scheme,’ which forced marriages upon women. This has allowed for many undocumented cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence to continue.  

The outreach coordinator for the U.S. based Uighurs Human Rights Project believes that the Chinese government is targeting these women because “if you want to eradicate a people, you must destroy its women.” He explains that this would ensure the destruction of “Uighur culture and identity”. 

Some critics speculate that this overall brutalization stems from a fear that the Uighur Muslims are a threat to China’s security. Events such as 9/11 and the idea of the ‘War on Terror’ are being used to justify this victimization. The camps have been described as a method of controlling and indoctrinating the Muslim population, attempting to turn Muslims into disciplined and obedient Chinese citizens. From the Chinese Communist party’s view, the camps are a solution to the rise of religious extremism and ethnic violence. It is a strategy of social re-engineering that results in loyal non-denominational Chinese nationals. 

Dishearteningly, China’s economic power means that other governments are less willing to help the Uighurs at this time. Presently, the United Nations are divided in their response with 54 countries supporting China’s stance. Surprisingly, 14 of these supporting countries are active members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, said these measures, referring to the camps, have protected the local people and emphasised that there had not been a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang in the past three years. This again reinforces the idea that anti-terrorism is being used as a justification for these human rights violations. However, in July 2019, 22 western nations including the UK. Canada, New Zealand and Australia, all signed a letter to the UN calling on China to stop these camps. In October 2019, although the US did not sign the letter, they placed visa restrictions on Chinese officials ‘believed to be responsible for, or complicit in’ the detention of Uighur Muslims. Although, actions have been initiated there has not been enough support to ensure the termination of these horrific camps.

History shows that some of the greatest atrocities and human rights violations have been justified by minorities being portrayed as subhuman, through dehumanization, frequently being branding as “viruses” “plagues” or “defects” of their nations. The Chinese government’s leaked documents state that freedom is only possible when this ‘virus’, alluding to Muslim religion and culture, is eradicated.  Ben Emmerson QC, a leading human rights lawyer and an adviser to the World Uighur Congress, argues that the camps are changing people’s identity.”It’s a total transformation that is designed specifically to wipe the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang as a separate cultural group off the face of the Earth.”


Data leak details China’s ‘brainwashing system’:

China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor:

Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of Workers:

CONCENTRATION CAMPS IN XINJIANG, CHINA — shit you should care about:

China’s attacks on Uighur women are crimes against humanity:

*This blog post discusses sensitive information that may be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University. If you are interested in hearing more about our content approach please read our previous post on EIJI content phiolosphy.*

Author: Bella Eperon

Editor: Kelsey Greeff

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik

EIJI Content Philosophy: Our Approach on Current Events, Issues, and News

The Edinburgh International Justice Initiative aims to bridge the gaps in the international justice system and we believe this includes informing, inspiring and impacting the community around us. We have therefore made the decision to include content posts on our blog with a focus on human rights, international justice, and the systems that govern these. The content of our blogs is to be as inclusive and impartial as possible while still highlighting potential injustices and cracks within the system. Through this, we hope to contribute towards making a practical impact as well as inspire like-minded people to further scrutinize the issues and consider the opportunities they may have to support and strengthen the international justice system alongside us.

*Our current event blog posts may discuss sensitive information that could be triggering for some individuals. EIJI is an impartial organization that seeks to inform people about contemporary issues of international justice. Views, information, and opinions expressed in our content posts do not necessarily reflect EIJI, its team or Edinburgh University.*

Author: Zora Stanik

Editor: Mathias Jacobsen

Editor in Chief: Zora Stanik