Turkey has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China and has become home to a sizable Uyghur diaspora; however, a Turkey-China extradition agreement that was signed in 2017 and is still awaiting ratification by the Turkish parliament may target Uyghurs living in Turkey and accelerate their extradition to China.
The text of the agreement, obtained by Nordic Monitor, contains ambiguous phrases that might trigger the extradition of scores of Uyghurs from Turkey and violate extradition mechanisms regulated by the European Convention on Extradition (ECE), to which Turkey is a party. The ECE provides for the extradition between parties of persons wanted for criminal proceedings or for the execution of a sentence.
Article 2 (2) of Turkey-China deal reveals that “it shall not matter whether the laws of both Parties place the offence within the same category or describe the offence by the same terminology.” According to the article, the parties could request the extradition of its citizens despite the fact that the offense does not fall within the scope of the provisions of the other party’s relevant laws.
For decades, Turkey has assisted and defended Uyghurs, who share many cultural and linguistic traits with Turks and are seen as ethnic brethren by Turkish nationalists. But Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has changed this policy in recent years and deported several Uyghurs to China. Moreover, as international condemnation increases over China’s crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, Turkey has remained silent due to China’s economic and political influence. Moreover, the Turkish government last October refused to join 23 nations in joint a statement calling on China to end violations against its Uyghur minority.
Following pressure from the AKP’s nationalist coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Turkish Foreign Ministry had to call on China in February to stop the crackdown on Uyghurs and close the camps in Xinjiang. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan didn’t hesitate to submit the Turkey-China extradition accord to the Turkish parliament for ratification on April 12, 2019, two months after the ministry released its statement.
President Erdoğan paid an official visit to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 13, 2017. Following his meeting with President Xi Jinping, then-Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi signed the 22-article agreement, which sets out the framework for extradition procedures.
“[T]he offence should be punishable under the laws of both Parties by imprisonment for a maximum period of at least one year or by a more severe penalty,” Article 2 1. states, adding that “the period of sentence that remains to be served by the person sought should be at least six months at the time when the request for extradition is made.”
According to Article 3, an extradition request will be rejected if the requested party considers the offense political or purely military; if the person who is sought has been granted asylum by the requested party; or if the requested party believes that “the request for extradition has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person sought on account of that person’s race, sex, religion, nationality or political opinion.”
“In case of urgency, either Party may apply for provisional arrest of the person sought before the request for extradition has been transmitted to the Requested Party,” Article 9 underlines. According to the Turkish media, Ankara has been quietly deporting small numbers of Uyghurs, and more than 1,000 Uyghurs are currently in jail in Turkey. This number could increase following ratification of the extradition agreement by parliament.
President Erdoğan’s letter submitted to parliament seeking approval of the agreement with China:China_letter
Turkey and China have established a judicial cooperation mechanism that has deepened the multidimensional Turkish-Chinese relationship following President Erdoğan’s official visit to China in May 2017. In addition to the extradition deal, the justice ministries of both countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November 2018 to enhance cooperation between their judicial authorities.
At the signing ceremony, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül stressed that Turkish-Chinese dialogue has increased due to the contacts between the two countries’ leaders and that this has led to cooperation in economy, trade and diplomacy as well as the judiciary. Moreover, he added that China and Turkey would seek more judicial cooperation.
In accordance with the MoU, Turkish judges and prosecutors have started receiving training at Chinese universities, familiarizing themselves with China’s judicial system, culture and language. In July 2019, Turkish judges and prosecutors completed a special program at the Public Security University of China in Beijing and attended language courses and studied the Chinese judicial system during the program.
The 12-page security agreement is posted below:China_agreement