UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. investigator says contemporary forms of slavery are widely practiced around the world, including forced labor for China’s minority Uyghurs, bonded labor for upper-caste Dalits low in South Asia and domestic servitude in the Gulf countries, Brazil and Colombia. .
The special rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, Tomoya Obokata, adds that traditional slavery, especially of minorities, is found in Mauritania, Mali and Niger in the African region of the Sahel.
He said in a report to the UN General Assembly circulated on Wednesday that child labour, another contemporary form of slavery, exists in all regions of the world, including its worst forms.
“In Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, between 4 and 6 per cent of children are said to be in child labour, and the percentage is much higher in Africa (21.6 per cent ), with the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa (23.9%),” he said.
His conclusion about Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang province follows a US ban imposed last December on imports from the region unless companies can prove the items are made without forced labor. There have been many claims that China engages in systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its western region.
China’s Foreign Ministry sharply criticized the finding by Obokata, a Japanese scholar and professor of international law and human rights at Keele University in England.
In the report, Obokata said that, based on an independent assessment of information available from many sources, including victims and government accounts, he “considers it reasonable to conclude that forced labor among Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and The manufacturing has been occurring in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.”
He cited two systems used by China: detention of minorities for education and vocational training followed by job placement, and a work-poverty alleviation program in which surplus rural workers are transferred to another job. He said that labor transfer is also practiced in Tibet, where farmers, herders and other rural workers are transferred to low-skilled and low-paid jobs.
While these programs can create jobs and income as the government claims, Obokata said that in many cases the work is involuntary and workers are subject to excessive surveillance, abusive working and living conditions, restricted movements, threats, physical or sexual violence. and other inhuman or degrading treatment.
“Some cases may amount to slavery as a crime against humanity, which warrants further independent analysis,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused Obokata of choosing to “believe the lies and disinformation about Xinjiang spread by the United States and some other Western countries and anti-China forces.”
He also accused Obokata of abusing his authority as a special investigator to “smear and denigrate China and serve as a political tool for anti-China forces.” He accused anonymous “forces” of fabricating disinformation about forced labor “to undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and stability and contain China’s development and revitalization.”
“China strongly condemns this,” Wang said. “There has never been ‘forced labor’ in Xinjiang.”
He said that China protects the rights and interests of workers of all ethnic groups to seek employment, participate in economic and social life “and share in the dividends of socio-economic progress.”
Obokata said minorities are also subject to forced labor in Latin America, pointing to rural areas in Brazil, including the Amazon, where “slavery is closely linked to economic activities that are causing environmental devastation, including logging and mining.” illegal”. Most of the victims are black men with low levels of education, he said.
The report also cited two other forms of contemporary slavery: child or forced marriage and sexual slavery.
Child marriage rates are rising in marginalized communities like the Roma minority in southeastern Europe, he said. In parts of the Balkans, half of all Roma women aged 20 to 24 are married before the age of 18, compared to around 10% nationally, she said.
He said official data in the UK suggests that a large majority of forced marriage cases relate to Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Somalia.
In other regions, Boko Haram has forced Christian women and girls to convert to Islam and marry, Obokata said. Some minority ethnic groups in Nigeria practice child or forced marriage at high rates: 74.9% among the Kambari and 73.8% among the Fulfude. , he said.
Forced marriage is also a concern in the African nation of Congo, in Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam in Asia, and in Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras and Panama in Latin America, he said.
As for sexual slavery, which has been particularly notable during conflicts and humanitarian crises, Obokata pointed to the more than 6,500 women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority allegedly captured in 2014 by Islamic State fighters who used rape as a weapon of war against them. Nearly 2,800 Yazidi women and children are still missing or in captivity today, she said.
In Ethiopia, Obokata said, minority women in the northern Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions have been subjected to rape, sexual mutilation and other forms of sexual violence by parties to the conflict.
In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has mainly targeted moderate Christians and Muslims for enslavement, including sexual slavery, he said.
In Myanmar, women from the Rohingya Muslim minority “have been subjected to systematic sexual violence by the country’s security forces, which can be considered a war crime or a crime against humanity,” she said.
Despite the persistence of contemporary forms of slavery among minorities, Obokata said that governments, national human rights bodies, civil society organizations, and regional and other groups “have played a significant role in prevention of the exploitation of minorities”.
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