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Prosecutorial Challenges in Addressing State-Sponsored Crimes Against Uighurs in Xinjiang: A Critical Examination of the Role and Limitations of the International Criminal Court


Using the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) position and limits as the main focus, this research article analyses the criminal justice issues connected with state-sponsored crimes against the Uighur community in Xinjiang. The historical evolution of international criminal law, the development of essential conventions and treaties, and the rise of the ICC as a significant factor in the fight against crimes against humanity are all covered in detail in this research. The research project investigates the development and decline of international criminal law and its connection to solidarity, drawing on Adam Jones’ book “Genesis Crimes Against Humanity: A Beginner’s Guide.

Research Questions

  1. How and why does the “waxing and waning” of the application of international criminal law, particularly concerning the prosecution of crimes against humanity, impact solidarity?
  2. What role did the post-war environment play in codifying the early principles of international criminal law, such as the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crime Tribunals, and the Geneva Conventions? What gap is left in international law following these occurrences that established precedents?

As to the Nuremberg Charter, which two components constitute Crimes against Humanity?

  1. What is the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) goal, and how is it different from the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ)? What definition of crimes against humanity has the ICC changed?
  2. How does the ICC define the Crimes of Aggression and war crimes?
  3. How do crimes against humanity and genocide vary from one another?
  4. What are the main objections to the ICC’s criteria of genocide and its shortcomings?


The paper discusses the critical barriers that state-sponsored crimes against the Uighur community in Xinjiang face when trying them under international criminal law. It looks critically at the creation of relevant conventions and treaties and the historical development of international criminal law. The main focus is the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) ability to investigate crimes against humanity (Baaklini, 2021). The approach, informed by research questions, is based on Adam Jones’ “Genesis Crimes Against Humanity: A Beginner’s Guide,” which extensively analyzes the difficulties in holding those responsible for crimes against the Uighur population accountable.

Section 1: Solidarity and the Waxing and Waning Force of International Criminal Law

The effectiveness of international criminal law is significantly shaped by solidarity, a fundamental tenet of international relations, particularly when prosecuting crimes against humanity. Through “Genesis Crimes Against Humanity: A Beginner’s Guide,” Adam Jones explains the complex processes of solidarity within the international community and its implications for applying legal systems. Jones highlights the malleability of international solidarity, describing it as a force that changes in reaction to world affairs and political factors (Bonardi, 2021). When applied to international criminal law, this flexibility highlights a crucial interaction between the potency of legal procedures and the strength of solidarity. The study will examine Jones’ opinions to analyze how the waxing and disappearing of solidarity affect the international community’s collective commitment to resolving crimes against humanity.

The degree of unity and common goal among states determines the success of international criminal law, especially in prosecuting crimes against humanity. Strong solidarity increases the possibility of group action against those who commit horrible atrocities. On the other hand, a lack of unity might lead to weaker legal enforcement systems and a decline in international standards. Examining particular instances, such as the government-initiated offences directed at the Uighur community in Xinjiang, will offer tangible illustrations of how solidarity or lack thereof affects the quest for justice (Green et al., 2021).

Section 2: Post-War Context and Codification of International Criminal Law

Following World War II, there was a significant change in how people worldwide regarded who was responsible for the crimes committed during armed wars. A legal framework became evident as the world came together to confront some of the worst offences in human history. The destruction was unimaginable. The second part analyses the post-war environment, emphasizing significant occasions and tools that helped establish the foundation for international criminal law codification (Li, 2022).

The Geneva Conventions’ formation served as the foundation for post-war humanitarian endeavours. These agreements, which emerged in the middle of the 19th century, saw considerable changes after World War II. The Conventions provide guidelines for treating injured and sick soldiers, wounded civilians, and people in and around the combat zone humanely. This significant development emphasized the protection of vulnerable communities and shaped the legal framework regulating armed conflicts. Regarding international law, the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crime Tribunals touched on events (Maheshwari, 2022). These tribunals, which were set up to trial well-known war criminals from the Axis powers, produced rules that later aided in the creation of international criminal law. The enshrinement of the concept of individual criminal responsibility challenged the established notion of governmental immunity for atrocities (Michaelsen & Thumfart, 2023). These courts set a precedent for holding people accountable for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, in addition to working to bring the victims’ rights to justice.

Section 3: Elements of Crimes Against Humanity According to the Nuremberg Charter

Established in the aftermath of World War II, the Nuremberg Charter is regarded as a foundational text in international law, especially concerning prosecuting crimes against humanity. Analyzing its provisions shows two crucial components that serve as the foundation for state investigations-sponsored crimes. An enormous and systematic act is required as the first elemental pillar. According to the Nuremberg Charter, acts of violence must have a scope and pattern that go beyond isolated instances to qualify as crimes against humanity. The word “widespread” emphasizes the acts’ geographic reach and the need for them to occur on a large scale and impact a sizable population (Raxter, 2021). In addition, the word “systematic” suggests that state officials deliberately orchestrated these crimes in addition to their overwhelming magnitude, implying a planned and organized approach to their conduct.

This focus on broad and methodical actions accomplishes two goals. First, it ensures that the crimes’ seriousness is appropriate for their classification as “Crimes against Humanity.” The scope of the suffering inflicted upon many people demands an international reaction beyond national borders. Second, it shows that there is a possibility that governmental apparatus might be used for criminal purposes (Tobin, 2022). The Nuremberg Charter demands the international community to step in when organized state-sponsored crimes occur, acknowledging the threat they pose and demanding an organized response.

Section 4: Purpose and Distinctions of the ICC

On worldwide events, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a ray of hope for individuals seeking justice for the most heinous crimes. It is essential to clarify its purpose and differentiate it from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations to appreciate its importance fully. The ICC has an innovative influence that may be further understood by looking at how it has affected the definition of crimes against humanity and how it handles state-sponsored crimes (Zenz, 2023). The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established primarily to bring cases against those who have committed the most serious crimes of international concern, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. Holding people responsible for their conduct is the ICC’s mandate, as opposed to the ICJ’s primary focus on between-state conflicts. This critical difference illustrates the role the ICC performs in preventing impunity by going after the leaders and perpetrators of horrible crimes, regardless of their official positions or state relationships.

The influence of the ICC on the concept of crimes against humanity is a critical facet of its impact. The definition of crimes against humanity was enlarged and made more apparent by the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. It expanded on the conventional concept by including new elements like crimes against women and forced disappearances. The ICC’s commitment to dealing with the whole range of crimes that fall under the authority of state-sponsored crimes and adjusting to modern challenges is reflected in this term development. Furthermore, a paradigm change in international justice is represented by the ICC’s emphasis on individual criminality (Baaklini, 2021). The ICC questions the idea that state sovereignty serves as a shield for those who commit mass crimes by focusing on individuals rather than governments. This strategy, which emphasizes the responsibility of individuals for actions that shock people’s consciences, is in line with the principles of the Nuremberg Charter.

Section 5: ICC Definitions of War Crimes and Crime of Aggression

Holding people responsible for serious violations of international law is a crucial function of the International Criminal Court (ICC), especially when it comes to war crimes and the Crime of Aggression. Understanding state-sponsored crimes against the Uighurs requires an understanding of the categories of these offences as provided by the ICC (Zenz, 2023).

According to the International Criminal Court (ICC), war crimes include a wide range of acts that go against the customs and standards of warfare, including the willful withholding of essential supplies, torture, and deliberate targeting of civilians. According to reports, there have been serious human rights breaches involving the Uighurs, including forced labour, arbitrary detention, and attempts to assimilate culturally (Bonardi, 2021). The international community has a legal framework in place to deal with and pursue charges against those who contribute to such atrocities when these claimed activities are compared to the definition of war crimes set forth by the World Criminal Court.

The Crime of Aggression, which is the use of armed force by one state against the independence, sovereignty, or integrity of another state, is a relatively recent addition to the ICC’s jurisdiction. This definition considers the actual actions of aggression and the underlying military and political decisions. In the context of the Uighurs, state-sponsored acts that impact the autonomy of the people may be considered crimes against humanity (Green et al., 2021). This category may include policies that persistently endanger the fundamental rights and cultural identity of the Uighur people.

Section 6: Genocide vs. Crimes Against Humanity

The Uighur issue has drawn attention from around the world to the horrors occurring in China’s Xinjiang province, which has led to an essential review of legal categories, including genocide and crimes against humanity. It is critical to understand the differences between these terms to fully appreciate the seriousness and complexity of the abuses committed against the Uighur people. According to the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, acts carried out with the purpose of entirely or partially eradicating a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group are considered genocide (Maheshwari, 2022). Concerns about China’s purported systematic efforts to destroy Uighur identity, culture, and religion have been raised by the Uighur conflict. The significance of the situation is made clear by reports of forced labour, mass detentions, and cultural assimilation projects, which point to a purposeful endeavour to eradicate the Uighur minority (Xie & Liu, 2021).

However, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as a broader category of organized, pervasive attacks against the civilian population. Crimes against humanity, in contrast to genocide, may not always need the deliberate purpose of wiping out a community; instead, they can encompass acts like murder, enslavement, and persecution when they are part of a more significant, organized attack (Michaelsen & Thumfart, 2023). Charges of widespread arbitrary detentions, torture, and limitations on religious and cultural practice in the context of the Uighur crisis meet the standards for crimes against humanity.

Section 7: Criticisms and Weaknesses of the ICC

A thorough assessment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) shows its weaknesses and shortcomings, focusing on how it defines genocide. The efficiency of the ICC, according to critics, could be improved by issues with jurisdiction, enforcement, and the changing nature of conflict.

A well-known critique of the ICC is its narrow jurisdiction, which depends on member state approval or a referral by the UN Security Council. This restriction makes it more difficult for the court to deal with crimes committed by solid non-member nations or those shielded by strong allies. In addition, the ICC has difficulties enforcing its laws since it does not have a system and must rely on state assistance to make arrests and bring charges (Baaklini, 2021). Vulnerabilities arise from this reliance, mainly when dealing with nations hesitant to assist or protect individuals from punishment.

There have been arguments made against the concept of genocide itself. Some contend that the ICC’s view could be excessively limiting, ignoring the loss of culture or the economy as essential elements (Tobin, 2022). The dynamic character of combat, typified by non-conventional actors and hybrid warfare, presents additional obstacles to the precise documentation and prosecution of crimes of genocide under the current legal structure. Improving the ICC’s ability to prosecute state-sponsored crimes requires addressing these complaints (Raxter, 2021).


In summary, this study discusses the problematic subject of state-sponsored crimes against the Uighur population in Xinjiang by examining the authority and limitations of the International Criminal Court. An analysis of international criminal law’s rising and falling influence, which is based on solidarity, demonstrates how important it is to prosecute crimes against humanity. The progress and weaknesses in international criminal law are apparent in the post-war setting, covering the UN Genocide Convention to the Nuremberg Charter. Understanding the goals, differences, and definitions of the ICC clarifies its essential function in dealing with state-sponsored crimes. However, objections and shortcomings such as conflicts over jurisdiction and the ICC’s definition of genocide show how difficult it will always be to achieve full international justice.


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Bonardi, M. (2021). More Problems from Hell: The Uyghur Genocide. J. Glob. Rts. & Org.12, 1.

Green, E., Ko, M., Majmudar, S., McCreedy, L., Pardo, J. N., & Waldron, A. (2021). SIPA Capstone Project Report Combating Racism and Discrimination through the United Nations.

Li, R. (2022). Reproducing the Orient: A Critical Examination of Western Media Representations of China’s Uyghur Policies between 2014 and 2021.

Maheshwari, S. (2022). Enhancement of international criminal court’s jurisdiction for saving Uyghur Muslims: A case of “effect doctrine.” Journal of Positive School Psychology, 3537-3553.

Michaelsen, M., & Thumfart, J. (2023). Drawing a line: Digital transnational repression against political exiles and host state sovereignty. European Journal of International Security8(2), 151-171.

Raxter, L. (2021). Prosecution of Terrorism: Utilizing Domestic Court Systems to Address the Shortcomings of International Criminal Law. Crim. L. Prac.12, 25.

Tobin, D. (2022). Genocidal processes: social death in Xinjiang. Ethnic and Racial Studies45(16), 93-121.

Xie, G., & Liu, T. (2021). Navigating securities: Rethinking (counter-) terrorism, stability maintenance, and non-violent responses in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Terrorism and Political Violence33(5), 993-1011.

Zenz, A. (2023). Measuring Non-Internment State-Imposed Forced Labor in Xinjiang and Central Asia: An Assessment of ILO Measurement Guidelines. Journal of Human Trafficking, 1-27.


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