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China: Xinjiang Trials Deny Justice

October 16, 2009

For Immediate Release
China: Xinjiang Trials Deny Justice
Proceedings Failed Minimum Fair Trial Standards
Human Rights Watch
October 16, 2009

New York,  - The trials of 21 defendants accused
of participating in the violent July 2009
protests in Urumqi did not meet minimum
international standards of due process and fair
trials, Human Rights Watch said today.

On October 12, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s
Court tried seven men and sentenced six to death
and one to life imprisonment. On October 14,
another 14 men were tried and sentenced. Six
received the death penalty, three of them with a
two-year reprieve, while others were sentenced to
10 years of imprisonment. All the trials took
place without prior public notification and were conducted in less than a day.

"There is no doubt that serious criminal acts
were committed in July’s unrest in Xinjiang, but
it serves neither justice nor stability for the
government to ignore minimum standards of due
process," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy
director at Human Rights Watch. “The lack of
transparency about how these trials were
conducted undermines confidence in the verdicts.”

The protests of July 5-7, 2009 in Urumqi were one
of the worst episodes of ethnic violence in China
in decades. According to government figures, 197
people, 134 of them Han Chinese, died in the
violence, and some 1,600 were injured. Security
forces arrested hundreds of suspected protesters
over the following days and weeks, and the
government promised harsh punishment – including
the death penalty for the worst offenders – as early as July 9.

In recent weeks, the Xinjiang judicial
authorities announced that they would begin by
trying 21 cases for which they had overwhelming
evidence, including for some cases with
supporting footage from security cameras. On
October 9, the city’s deputy chief procurator,
Liu Bo, told Xinhua that law enforcement
authorities had made “a lot of effort to collect
solid and legitimate evidence against each
suspect allegedly involved in criminal activities
in the riot.” Liu added that the state
prosecution would “speed up the process of public
prosecution for the rest of the suspects.”

Human Rights Watch said that serious violations
of due process that compromised the possibility
of fair trials for the defendants, including
restrictions on legal representation, overt
politicization of the judiciary, failure to
publish public notification of the trials, and
failure to hold genuinely open trials as mandated
by law – all chronic problems in China’s judicial
system. In this month’s Xinjiang cases, Human
Rights Watch identified three particular concerns:

· In violation of the right to choose one’s own
lawyer, judicial authorities in Urumqi and
Beijing on July 11, 2009 effectively warned
lawyers against accepting these cases by
instructing them to exercise caution in dealing
with cases related to the riots, and telling
partners at law firms to report such cases
immediately and “positively accept monitoring and
guidance from legal authorities and lawyers’
associations.” The notice also banned lawyers
from making comments to the media or on the
internet, precluding public scrutiny of how the
trials were conducted. On August 9, Ren Guoshen,
the vice-head of the Urumqi legal aid services
told Xinhua that the lawyers appointed to defend
protesters had been chosen not only for their
legal skills but also for “their good political
qualities,” raising questions about those
lawyers’ willingness to challenge the government while defending their clients.

· Xinjiang judges and prosecutors were also
specifically selected to hear these cases based
on political criteria, and received direct
instructions from Party authorities regarding the
handling of the July 5 cases. The president of
the Xinjiang High People’s Court disclosed in a
July 16 Ministry of Justice publication that the
Xinjiang judicial authorities had “selected
politically qualified personnel drawn from the
entire region” to work on the July 5 cases. Other
official reports state that the Party Committee
of the Xinjiang High People’s Court had organized
training sessions for judicial personnel
participating in these trials. During those
sessions they received a “Propaganda Education
Manual on the Truth about the July 5th Incident
in Urumqi,” prepared by the Party authorities so
as to “unify the thinking with the central and
regional party authorities,” and “guide and
educate cadres and policemen from all
nationalities to increase their political
keenness and discernment.” The selection of
judicial personnel on political criterions is a
clear contravention of the right to be judged by
an “independent and impartial tribunal” under international law.

· In violation of China’s own criminal procedure
law, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court
failed to give public notification of the
upcoming trials of the first July 5 cases and to
hold open, public trials. It is unknown who was
allowed to attend the court proceedings, but
neither foreign journalists nor international
observers were present. In past cases, the
authorities have often arbitrarily restricted
attendance to sensitive trials, selecting court
personnel and civil servants to make up the audience.

Human Rights Watch, which opposes the death
penalty in all cases, also expressed concern
about the fate of hundreds more people officially
arrested and detained since the riots.
Information about their whereabouts remains unclear.

"Chinese authorities failed to keep repeated
promises to the public and the international
community to hold fair trials, consistent with
the law, said Richardson. "No one should confuse
these proceedings with justice."

To read the July 2009 Human Rights Watch news
release, "China: Security Build-Up Foreshadows
Large-Scale Crackdown," please visit:

To read the July 9, 2009 International Herald
Tribune op-ed by Nicholas Bequelin, "Behind the
Violence in Xinjiang," please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English,
Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +852-9074-3179 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French,
Mandarin): +852-8198-1040 (mobile)
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