UK Court of Appeal Rules NCA Must Reconsider Investigation into Uyghurland Cotton Imports

Author: Uyghur Times Staff
Date: June 28, 2024

London: The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) previous decision not to investigate the importation of cotton products manufactured by forced labor in Uyghurland,aka Xinjiang China, was unlawful. This landmark ruling, brought by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), paves the way for potential prosecutions of retailers under the Proceeds of Crime Act (Poca).

The case centers on accusations that cotton from China’s “Xinjiang” region is produced using forced labor, involving Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Thursday’s ruling could lead to high street retailers being held accountable if they import goods linked to such practices. The Court of Appeal’s decision overturns a previous high court ruling, which suggested an investigation under Poca could only commence with clear evidence of criminal conduct.

Actors and Opposite Stance:
The ruling was celebrated by human rights groups. Rahima Mahmut, UK Director of the WUC, hailed it as a “monumental victory and a moral triumph.” The court’s judgment addressed concerns raised by Spotlight on Corruption, emphasizing that investigations should not require prior proof of criminal activity.

China, on the other hand, vehemently denies the allegations. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London called the accusations of forced labor “an enormous lie propagated by anti-China elements.” Beijing maintains that claims of human rights abuses are fabricated by the U.S. to undermine Chinese enterprises.

This ruling forces the NCA to revisit its stance on investigating potential links between imported goods and human rights abuses in Uyghurland. It signifies a broader move towards accountability for corporations profiting from forced labor.

The allegations against China regarding the treatment of Uyghurs have been persistent, with numerous reports highlighting forced labor in the region. Last year, London’s High Court acknowledged evidence of forced labor but initially ruled in favor of the British authorities’ legal interpretation, which required a direct link between criminality and specific products. This recent judgment changes that requirement, demanding that the NCA reconsider the evidence presented.

A timeline of events:

  • 2020: Initial reports surface regarding forced labor in Uyghurland.
  • 2023: London’s High Court ruled there was “clear and undisputed evidence of instances of cotton being manufactured … by the use of detained and prison labour as well as by forced labour”.but dismissed the legal challenge.
  • 2024: The Court of Appeal overturns the decision, demanding a reconsideration by the NCA.

This ruling marks a significant step in addressing forced labor and could have profound implications for international trade and human rights advocacy.


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