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Morocco’s extradition of Uyghur asylum seeker to China could lead to serious rights violations, argue UN experts

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Protesters in Washington, DC, march against the killing of Uyghur Muslims.

Four UN independent human rights experts called on Thursday for Morocco to reverse its decision to extradite a Uyghur Muslim to China as his return would place him under threat of serious human rights violations.

If he is made to return, human rights defender Yidiresi Aishan risks detention, enforced disappearance, or torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the experts argue.

Deep concern

“We are deeply concerned by today’s decision by the Moroccan Court of Cassation allowing the extradition of Mr. Aishan to China, despite the credible risk of grave violations of his human rights, both for his membership of an ethnic and religious minority and for his alleged affiliation with a terrorist organisation”, the experts said in a statement.

The Chinese authorities are accusing him of having joined the terrorist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement as well as carrying out or actively participating in alleged terrorist activities, under Article 120 of the Chinese Criminal Code.

Based on a Red Notice alert, issued by the world police cooperation body INTERPOL, on 13 March 2017, Mr. Aishan was arrested in Casablanca.

However, that notice was suspended in August this year.

No risk assessment

Whenever “substantial grounds” exist for the likelihood of torture in the country of destination, no State has the right to expel, return or otherwise remove any individual from its territory, according to the UN experts.

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This includes a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

This extradition process is happening without any form of individual examination and assessment of risks, which blatantly violates the absolute prohibition of refoulement under international human rights and refugee law”, the independent experts said.

As an asylum seeker in Morocco, Mr. Aishan should be protected from extradition or forced return to China, until his refugee status is decided, they added.

Legal obligation

Moreover, they underscored that no bilateral agreement on extradition or diplomatic assurances can wlease a State from its obligations under international human rights and refugee law.

Back in August, he UN experts had raised their concerns over the case with the Moroccan Government. They will continue engaging with the authorities to ensure full compliance with the absolute prohibition of refoulement under international human rights and refugee law, they said. 

Endorsing the statement were Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Nils Melzer; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawler; and Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes RP.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

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