Eurasianet reports that as evidence leaks out about Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, international legal experts are weighing how to hold Beijing accountable.

China reportedly dismisses all claims as fabrications by a West jealous of its economic power.  As China’s position hardens and relations grow frostier, accountability seems unlikely.  Beijing is reportedly trying to block the release of a report by the UN’s rights chief.

Now, lawyers assembling a case against China of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague are testing recent precedent in a way that could draw in Central Asian states.

Meanwhile, China has not signed the UN treaty governing the court, known as the Rome Statute, so the ICC’s independent prosecutors do not have jurisdiction there.  But because several Central Asian nations appear to have helped China by deporting people who then disappeared into the prison camps, these nations could be considered accessories to China’s crimes.  And one, Tajikistan, has signed and ratified the ICC treaty, giving prosecutors jurisdiction, according to Eurasianet.

How much trouble this might cause Tajik officials may depend on whether Dushanbe chooses to cooperate with investigators or throw its lot in with China.  Tajikistan is deeply in debt to China, its largest creditor.

Eurasianet says a team of Rodney Dixon QC, a lawyer working on behalf of Uyghur exiles, has collected evidence from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. 

Dixon spoke with Eurasianet by phone about seeking justice at the ICC and how Central Asian countries are vulnerable.

Asked how Tajikistan appears in his argument, Mr. Dixon noted that Tajikistan is an ICC State Party, which gives the Court jurisdiction.

“The evidence shows that Chinese officials and operatives are coming onto Tajikistan territory, which is ICC territory, and targeting, arresting and deporting Uyghurs back into China,” said Dixon.  “So the crime is beginning on ICC territory and continuing into China.  The evidence shows that this is being orchestrated by Chinese officials.  It also shows that officials from Tajikistan are informed of this and often directed by Chinese officials to take certain actions.”

Asked could Central Asian officials potentially be prosecuted at the ICC, Dixon said that their focus has been on what Chinese officials are doing, because they are following the crime through into China and what happens there.

“But what the evidence has shown, which we have highlighted, is that Tajik officials have been directed by Chinese officials to ensure that Uyghurs are identified and then deported.  Those officials are playing a role.  So yes, it is correct to say that all officials who participate in these crimes could be investigated and prosecuted.  They’re not immune from that,” Dixon said.

According to him, Tajikistan as an ICC State Party should assist the ICC in this investigation and should cooperate in ensuring that those who are responsible from the Chinese side are brought to justice.