China was accused on Tuesday of harvesting human organs from persecuted groups in the country.
The China Tribunal, a group that’s investigating the organ harvesting, said at a tense meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council that the Chinese government was taking hearts, kidneys, lungs, and skin from groups including Uighur Muslims and members of the Falun Gong religious group.
The China Tribunal describes itself as an “independent, international people’s tribunal, and was backed by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, an Australian human rights charity made up of lawyers, academics, and medical professionals.
Addressing UN representatives, a lawyer for the China Tribunal, Hamid Sabi, said the group had proof of the organ harvesting.
Sabi said the group had found that China was committing “crimes against humanity” by harvesting organs from religious minorities like the Uighurs and members of Falun Gong, which has been banned and widely persecuted by the Chinese government.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale,” Sabi said in a video published on the China Tribunal website.
Sabi was presenting evidence from the tribunal’s final report, published in June, which found that a “very substantial number” of prisoners were “killed to order” by the Chinese government.
They were “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale,” the report said.
The body parts were then used for medical purposes, it said, citing extremely short wait times for organ transplants in Chinese hospitals as evidence of the practice.
The report was led by Sir Geoffrey Nice, a British lawyer who was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslavian president.
Sabi told the UN council on Tuesday that China’s efforts involved “hundreds of thousands of victims,” describing it as “one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
He did not specify how many organs the China Tribunal believes had been harvested, or the number taken from Uighurs and from Falun Gong members.
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” he said.
“Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph, but killing the donor is criminal.”
Reuters said China has insisted that it “stopped using organs from executed prisoners in 2015.”
The Chinese government did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on Sabi’s testimony.
Sabi concluded by saying that it is the duty of international bodies like the UN to investigate the tribunal’s findings “not only in regard to the possible charge of genocide, but also in regard to crimes against humanity.”