Almost 24 Uighur people who allege the Chinese government tortured and imprisoned them have filed a criminal complaint against Beijing in International Criminal Court.
They say they speak on behalf of other Uighur people who have been mistreated in Chinese incarceration simply because they belong to the minority group that lives primarily in northwest China. Most Uighurs are Muslim.
The Chinese government denies the claims of wrongdoing and said it provides education and job training for Uighurs at government centers in efforts to eradicate terrorism in the Xinjiang region.
In a series of interviews with NBC news, Mamattursun Omer, 29, described being imprisoned in a government center starting in 2017, where he was tortured until he falsely confessed to offenses he did not commit. The so-called offenses included, among other things, attending religious services while on a business trip in Egypt. After nearly a year, he was released to travel to visit his father in Germany and obtain information on Uighurs and other people living there, Omer said. He has not carried out the mission and now lives in Turkey. He has received threats and says he fears the Chinese government will kill him.
Omer also recalled the suffering of other people in the detention centers where he was held.
"I didn't see, but I could hear the unbearable screams coming from both sides of the corridor," he said.
The case before the ICC alleges the Chinese government engages in forced sterilization and birth control, massacres, and mass surveillance of the Uighur people; forces some Uighurs to become informants on others living outside China; and captures Uighurs living abroad, bringing them back to face torture in China. Reports by human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree that China has imprisoned large numbers of Uighurs.
Neither China nor the United States recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court, but the attorneys on the case say it can still do some good. The court could release arrest requests, for example, for individual perpetrators named in the case, which might deter them from international travel. In turn, those people might be less able to harm Uighur people living outside China.
The attorneys are imploring the court to investigate Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials.