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Game-changing legal victory for World Uyghur Congress

This. Is. Huge.  We have resoundingly won our appeal with World Uyghur Congress against the National Crime Agency (NCA) - and this decision will have massive consequences for high street retail giants trading and importing forced labour goods. The Court of Appeal has said the UK NCA’s refusal to investigate Uyghur forced labour cotton imported from China was unlawful.

It means that if a company knowingly or with suspicion imports goods which have been made in criminal circumstances - such as through forced Uyghur labour - they could be prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act for trading criminal property. That’s right - the Court of Appeal has confirmed the cotton being stocked on the high street which is derived from forced Uyghur labour is CRIMINAL PROPERTY as long as the person handling it “knows or suspects” its history of forced labour. The NCA needs to get this cotton out of our stores!

The NCA tried to say the evidence we presented to them wasn’t enough, that we needed to identify a specific consignment of cotton produced through forced labour before they could investigate. The Court said this was WRONG, and an investigation can be commenced at any time to identify these consignments. The NCA also tried to argue that once market value had been paid for criminal property, it was ‘cleaned’ and could be traded freely. The Court said this too was WRONG. Criminal property is still criminal, even if market value has been paid for it!

The outcome

  • The NCA’s decision is quashed, and it now falls to the NCA to reconsider whether to investigate. Now that its two biggest excuses have been shut down by our litigation, will it do the right thing and investigate?

  • Any company trading in the UK will have no choice but to take notice of this landmark judgment, which confirms just how exposed businesses are if they trade in goods produced through criminal activity abroad.


China currently operates the largest detainment camp since World War 2. Uyghur and other Turkic people have been subjected to an appalling campaign of forced labour, persecution and internment which meets the legal criteria for crimes against humanity and genocide. One of the major areas in which workers are deployed for involuntary servitude is Xinjiang’s massive cotton production industry.

The cotton floods the global market, and in April 2020 GLAN and WUC wrote to the UK enforcement authorities asking them to investigate. They refused, so we took them to the High Court through judicial review proceedings. The High Court ruled in favour of the authorities - but we fought back, and now the law is crystal clear.

GLAN is working to ensure that powerful actors that profit from atrocity crimes are held to account. We can’t continue this groundbreaking work without you.

The decision can be accessed here: 


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