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ICC complaint alleging Uighur genocide cites China Cables as evidence

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The classified Chinese government documents at the core of the China Cables investigation were included as evidence submitted to the International Criminal Court in a complaint alleging genocide against the Uighurs by China’s top leaders, the lawyer leading the case said.

The leaked files published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last year documented China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, using extra-judicial detention, forced indoctrination and a pervasive mass-surveillance system.

Lawyers representing two Uighur activist groups filed the complaint with the ICC in July and are now waiting to meet with chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to discuss the evidence, which includes “countless” eye-witness accounts and reports by researchers and journalists of alleged forced sterilization, torture and forced labor.

“This is a classic crime against humanity of the highest order,” Rodney Dixon, an international human rights lawyer and the lead counsel, told ICIJ.

The China Cables “will be very important documents that come from the alleged perpetrators directly,” he said, adding that they will have to be verified independently in future trial proceedings.

“For now, those documents are all taken into account to establish that there’s a reasonable basis to believe crimes were committed and to be able to get the investigation open,” Dixon said.

He represents the East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, two groups that take their name from the region known to China as Xinjiang.

“We want real justice where the Chinese government and its officials are held accountable and punished just like the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials and the various criminals at the Yugoslavian tribunal,” ETGE’s leader Salih Hudayar said. “Ultimately, we want this to be a one of the first steps towards regaining our nation’s independence and freedom.”

China doesn’t recognize the ICC mandate, but the complainants have circumvented that by claiming that the crimes were committed in Tajikistan and Cambodia, which are signatories of the court.

Both countries are responsible for “unlawfully” deporting Uighur refugees back to China where “they have been subjected to human rights abuses and serious crimes,” ETGE said in a statement.

It’s the same strategy that was used to investigate crimes against the Rohingya minority allegedly perpetrated by Myanmar ー which is not a ICC member state ー by examining potential abuses in its neighboring country, Bangladesh.

Chinese officials have repeatedly dismissed the claims as slanderous and recently said the government has lifted more than 1 billion people out of poverty by “pursuing a people-centered vision on human rights.”

In a press conference earlier this month, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “The Chinese people’s rights to speech and religious freedom, as well as the ethnic minorities’ right to participate in the governance of state affairs, are protected according to law.”

“A very important first step”

Earlier this month, a group of more than 60 parliamentarians from 14 countries joined the appeal and sent a letter to the prosecutor to “call on the ICC to play its part in ensuring that the perpetrators of the most egregious human rights abuses are held accountable and prevented from acting with impunity.”

Dixon called the lawmakers’ move a “very important first step” to show the prosecutor that “if she takes on a case like this, which is difficult, massive, and politically very sensitive, [she] will be supported around the world,” he told ICIJ from London.

It is not clear when the prosecutor will respond to their request, and whether she will choose to pursue it. If she does, she will examine whether there’s a reasonable basis to believe the crimes are being committed, Dixon explained.

For Hudayar, the politicians’ support was “a big slap in the face to China,” and he hopes governments across the globe will continue to recognize China’s violations against the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples.

“The world must uphold its promise of ‘never again’ and take real action, including humanitarian intervention if necessary,” he said.

Hudayar, a 27-year-old Uighur-American, told ICIJ he moved to the U.S. with his family after his uncle was arrested “for reading a political book,” in 1997, and Chinese security forces raided his home and “pointed their AK-47s to our heads threatening to kill us if my uncle didn’t confess to his crime.”

“At the time I only knew we were different and the Chinese were bad,” he said.

In 2018, the United Nations estimated that China held in mass-detention camps more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other Turkic minorities.

But evidence suggests that many more Uighurs have since been arbitrarily detained, forced to work in factories, put under strict government surveillance and have seen hundreds of their mosques destroyed, according to reports by international news organizations and research centers. The detainees were subjected to ideological indoctrination, forced to renounce their religion and language, and physically abused, the accounts say.

“The government would use positive words and say they were sending [Uighurs] to re-education centers,” former detainee Zumrat Dawut told ICIJ last year. “But these aren’t re-education centers, in actuality these are really prisons,” she said during an interview in Virginia, where she relocated after fleeing China.

One year since China Cables

As more and more former detainees and Uighur families residing overseas spoke up over the past year, a small number of countries began to put pressure on China over alleged human rights abuses.

In June, U.S. President Donald Trump authorized sanctions against China over the mass detention of Uighurs. The U.S. later sanctioned four top Chinese officials considered the architects of the country’s mass internment camps. Among them was Zhu Hailun, who formerly led the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party in the Xinjiang region. Zhu’s signature was on five of the six leaked government files obtained by ICIJ.

The U.S. has also imposed trade restrictions on dozens of Chinese companies that are believed to have a role in the crackdown against the Muslim minorities, including forced labor and high-technology surveillance.

Other countries are now considering stronger measures too.

In October, 39 countries including Japan, European Union member states, New Zealand and others urged China to respect Uighurs’ human rights and allow “unfettered access” to Xinjiang for independent observers. Separately, a group of British lawmakers urged their government to sanction Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations.

Last week, Canada’s ambassador to the U.N. Bob Rae said in an TV interview with CBC that the organization’s Human Rights Council should investigate whether China’s persecution of Uighurs should be considered genocide.

A Chinese top official said Rae was “crafting a publicity stunt.”

Standing up to China may come with an economic cost, Darren Byler, an expert on Xinjiang at the University of Colorado Boulder, said.

That’s why, besides the U.S., “it’s really important for other nations to take a leadership role in pushing back against [China’s treatment of Uighurs],” he said.

An investigation by a powerful entity such as the International Criminal Court would be “important strategically and will provide a body of evidence,” Byler added. It would also trigger “knock-down effects that will build more solidarity and resolve” around the issue, including making it unlikely for China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics ー a role opposed by many human rights groups.

Recent reports have suggested that ー contrary to the Chinese government’s claims ー the crackdown is far from over, and that powerful corporations are complicit.

Just this month, a new report on surveillance tactics in Xinjiang documented how a Chinese tech company developed software targeting the Uighurs.

Zhejiang Dahua Technology, a surveillance firm that has won more than $1 billion worth of government contracts in Xinjiang according to the news site IPVM, wrote a code that appeared to discriminate against the minority. Dahua is on the U.S. blacklist.

The central role of technology in China’s repression of Muslim minorities was also a key revelation of China Cables. One bulletin issued by Xinjiang’s Communist Party Committee, for instance, instructed officials to use data stored by the police to investigate Uighurs “one by one,” as thoroughly as possible, to find what it describes as terrorism suspects.

Human Rights Watch has also documented the use of sophisticated technological platforms to collect personal information, report on activities deemed “suspicious,” and prompt investigations of people flagged by the system, in a report called “China’s Algorithms of Repression.”

This and other findings, including footage of shackled and blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang, reports of forced birth control and accounts by investigators currently on the ground in China, make an inquiry by the ICC an urgent matter, Dixon said.

“This is going on as we speak,” he said. “And we shouldn’t be hesitating. Because starting that investigation can send a very strong signal that these crimes are not going to be tolerated.”

The post ICC complaint alleging Uighur genocide cites China Cables as evidence appeared first on ICIJ.

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Election Integrity

Analyzing the Case for Election Fraud

Despite the overwhelming pressure, if you can’t help but feel that tingling sense of knowing that is telling you there’s more to the story, you are not alone. In fact, according to a new Rassmussen poll, nearly 50% of voters believe the election had issues. A quick look at the data blatantly shows that indeed, shenanigans abound (how can a state have 1+ million more mail-in ballots tallied than they sent out?). But was it fraud or masterful gamesmanship?

Adryenn Ashley

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The world, or at least the global media, has spoken: Biden won the 2020 Election.

UPDATED FREQUENTLY WITH NEW INFORMATION – Last update 12/21/2020

A quick Google search reveals pages upon pages of reports of why the Trump team’s assertions of vote fraud and election fraud and vote flipping are flat out fallacies. YouTube has announced a ban on any videos questioning the election results. And now on Monday all 538 electors have voted, formalizing Biden’s 306-232 win. And while there is still Congress to get through, and the inauguration, based on social media and television news and practically every other point of information bombarding society today, Biden is now the President-elect.

But why now, after Government officials confirmed during Senate testimony that a foreign adversary, Russia, attempted to interfere in the 2016 United States Presidential Election via “a multi-faceted approach intended to undermine confidence in our democratic process.” According to U.S. intelligence official reports, Russia targeted voter registration databases in at least 21 states and sought to infiltrate the networks of voting equipment vendors, political parties, and at least one local election board. And if their purpose was not so much to “hack” the election but create chaos and sow seeds of uncertainty around our election process, I would say they have won. But what if this cycle, it was Russia who somehow manipulated extra ballots and placed the blame on the Democrats? What if…?

Russian Experience With Voter Fraud

The 2004 presidential election in Ukraine saw suspiciously high turnout rates that “even Stalinist North Korea would envy,” the State Department declared!

Back then, the U.S. government decried as corrupt an earlier election where special voting boxes were created to help citizens vote from home, election observers were expelled from vote counts, pre-election polls were wildly off, and voter turnout in certain communities exceeded 90%.

But the story of that Ukrainian election as recounted by then-Ambassador John Tefft to a Senate committee in December 2004 raises a tantalizing question for voters distrustful of the Nov. 3 elections results in our own 2020 Presidential Election: If tactics and outcomes in the Ukrainian election back then were enough to cry foul, why can’t Americans debate similar concerns here?

Tefft’s testimony raises an important question: Should America, the greatest democracy in the world, share any of the fraudulent attributes of a Ukrainian election? The answer for most Americans is hopefully resounding “No.”

And despite continued and repeated headlines that there was no fraud, according to the Harvard Kenney School report on Election Integrity this cycle, expert assessments indicate that compared with 2016, the performance of this contest displays several warning flags, namely worsening confidence in the integrity of American elections and falling public trust, challenges to legitimacy arising from threats of campaign violence,legal disputes about the process and results, and public protests about the outcome, as well as growing attempts at voter suppression. 

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Investigations

Advocates celebrate major US anti-money laundering victory

Landmark laws to thwart the use of U.S. shell companies by terrorists, human traffickers, arms dealers and kleptocrats are set to be enacted after more than a decade of lobbying and politicking with rare bipartisan support.

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Advocates celebrate major US anti-money laundering victory

The sweeping anti-money laundering reforms hitched a lift in the annual defense spending bill that passed the Senate 84-13 today, and was approved by the House 355-78 earlier this week.

The Corporate Transparency Act requires U.S. companies to report their true owners to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN — largely ending anonymous shell companies in the country.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has repeatedly documented how the rich, the powerful and the criminal have used anonymous entities to hide their wealth, including in the 2016 Panama Papers and the 2020 FinCEN Files investigations.

Welcoming the clampdown, Transparency International’s U.S. director Gary Kalman said, “It is rare for such a simple measure to promise such an enormous impact.” Kalman added that the long sought anti-corruption reforms would “move us into a new era of enforcement.”

The new legislation will allow law enforcement agencies and financial institutions to request company ownership information from FinCEN. The data will not be publicly available.

FinCEN Files was based on a trove of suspicious activity reports filed by banks and other financial institutions to FinCEN. BuzzFeed News obtained the secret documents and shared them with ICIJ and more than 100 other media organizations.

The global investigation exposed how a broken U.S.-led enforcement system allows banks to continue to profit from moving dirty money tied to drug cartels, trafficking rings fueling the opioid crisis, fraud, organized crime, sanctions evasion, ruinous real estate schemes, and terrorism.

“Too many times, people … think money laundering is a federal, victimless crime. It is certainly not that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate banking committee, told reporters on a call organized by the advocacy group the FACT Coalition. “Sinaloa cartel actors, fentanyl traffickers have been destroying thousands of families in my state and across the country.”

Earlier this year, Brown credited FinCEN Files for revealing the lack of forceful enforcement against banks that repeatedly violate the law. Advocates said a number of proposed bipartisan bills, including one co-sponsored by Brown, were instrumental in generating the support needed to attach the reforms to the spending bill.

“This is a really big deal to get this passed,” Brown said Thursday. “No more hiding these abuses in anonymous shell companies. It also cracks down on bank officials who look the other way or actively aid money laundering.”

A long time coming

ICIJ has shown how offshore shell companies have been used for dubious financial dealings and tax avoidance through a series of global exposés, including the Secrecy for Sale investigation, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly cited the investigations in proposing reforms over the years.

Countries like the United Kingdom, Indonesia and members of the European Union also took steps toward ending anonymous shell companies in response to ICIJ reporting.

“When the Panama Papers leaked, there was a huge flurry of interest because there’s all of a sudden this recognition that it was kleptocrats, money launderers, corrupt officials the world over, as well as criminals, were all using a very common structure to help evade law enforcement, which was setting up an anonymous company,” Lakshmi Kumar, policy director of Global Financial Integrity, said.

The phenomenon is not limited to the exotic offshore tax havens of popular imagination. U.S. jurisdictions like Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada are among the world’s top locations to set up anonymous companies. Legislation to require corporations to disclose their true owners was first proposed in the U.S. over a decade ago, co-sponsored by then-senator Barack Obama, and similar bills have been introduced over the years.

Advocates credit years of lobbying a broad coalition of stakeholders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which had previously been a leading opponent, in getting the reforms across the finish line this year.

“What’s changed now is a growing understanding among various constituencies about the harms that anonymous companies pose, and the threats that they pose for our financial system, to our businesses,” Clark Gascoigne, senior policy advisor at FACT Coalition, said.

But it’s not a done deal quite yet.

Although the anti-money laundering proposals have had the support of the administration, President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act over provisions unrelated to financial secrecy.

Both the House and the Senate votes surpassed the two-thirds margin that would be needed to override a veto, although some Republicans have indicated that they would not support what would be the first veto override of the Trump presidency.

But the NDAA has been reliably passed by Congress every year for six decades and advocates are confident that the time has come for the landmark financial transparency measure that’s included in the omnibus bill.

“It’s one of the few areas where the outgoing Trump administration agrees with the incoming Biden administration,” Gascoigne said. “It may be the first bill in the history of Congress that has the support of both Dow Chemical and Friends of the Earth. Heck, the state of Delaware even supports reform.”

The post Advocates celebrate major US anti-money laundering victory appeared first on ICIJ.

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Muslim Brotherhood suspect and Saudi billionaire linked to same offshore companies, Austrian report says

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One of 30 people in Austria suspected to be members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Muslim Brotherhood was the director of offshore companies linked to a Saudi billionaire, according to an investigation by Austrian media outlets profil and Ö1.

The man, described as a 37-year-old Viennese entrepreneur with Iraqi roots, is suspected of “participating in a terrorist, subversive and criminal organization” and was a target of the police investigation into the group and the Palestinian extremist organization Hamas, the report said

The inquiry, which led 930 officers to raid 60 apartments, shops and clubs in four federal states last month, had no connection to the Vienna terror attack that killed four and injured 23 on November 2, according to officials cited by Deutsche Welle.

The Austrian report ー based on police records ー does not name the suspect, nor the Saudi businessman, for fear of hampering the ongoing probe into possible terror financing.

The pair’s link to shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore financial centers was revealed for the first time after the reporters’ examination of Paradise Papers, a trove of leaked documents obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2017.

The 13.4 million files include incorporation documents, emails, contracts and other records from two offshore service providers and the company registries of some of the world’s most secretive countries.

The Austrian man was listed as the director of several companies in the BVI, Malta and the Bahamas, the media report said. His address on the documents referred to an apartment in Vienna that belongs to the wife of one of the main suspects in the police investigation, according to a review of Austria’s land registry records.

By cross-checking the confidential files with property records, the reporters also found that the shell companies owned properties in the U.K., including two office buildings, a commercial property and a retail park, worth about $73 million in total.

The documents show that a Liechtenstein trust owned by the Saudi businessman was behind those companies. The man is also known as a philanthropist who has financed Islamic studies at various European universities in recent years, including in Austria, the report added.

The complex offshore structure identified by the journalists is legal, the report said, but “can be used to disguise the flow of money and the identity of the true economic beneficiaries.”

Profil and Ö1, two ICIJ media partners in Austria, asked the Viennese suspect about the purpose of the offshore company network and his link with the Saudi billionaire. A lawyer representing him declined to comment.

The post Muslim Brotherhood suspect and Saudi billionaire linked to same offshore companies, Austrian report says appeared first on ICIJ.

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