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Spanish High Court rules that Chinese leaders must testify on Tibet

May 7, 2009

ICT report, May 5, 2008

A Spanish judge has today informed the Chinese Ministry of Justice of
rulings against eight Chinese leaders, including Tibet Autonomous Region
Party Secretary Zhang Qingli, in the Spanish High Court. The rulings
concern an investigation on crimes against the Tibetan people in
connection with the harsh crackdown on dissent in Tibet that has been
ongoing from March 2008. The judge has requested authorization from the
Chinese ministry to question the defendants in China should they refuse
to do so before the Spanish court.

Judge Santiago Pedráz also requested authorization to visit prisons and
sites of major protests in Tibet, as well as permission from the Indian
government to interview Tibetan witnesses in Dharamsala, base of the
Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile government.

The lawsuit is one of two on Tibet currently underway in the Spanish
High Court under the principle of ?universal jurisdiction,? a doctrine
that allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture,
terrorism or war crimes. The lawsuit dealing with the period from 2006,
specifically on the last year?s crackdown, was filed by Tibet Support
Committee of Spain (CAT) and Fundacion Casa Del Tibet, Barcelona and
accepted by the court just days before the opening of the Beijing
Olympics in August 2008.

"Given the cordial relations between our two respective countries, I
hope that you will respond favorably to my request," Judge Pedráz wrote
to the Chinese authorities, referring to a bilateral justice cooperation
agreement signed in 2005, according to a court document obtained and
cited by news agency AFP (May 5, 2009). The judge said that if the
accusations made in the complaint are proven, they would constitute
crimes against humanity under Spanish and international law. "The
Tibetan population would appear to be a group that is persecuted by the
cited authorities for political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural,
religious or other motives universally recognised as unacceptable under
international law," he wrote, according to the same AFP report.

In the ruling made public today by the court, Judge Pedráz refers to the
need to question the Chinese leaders ?for their participation in the
crimes against humanity against the Tibetan people that are being
investigated in these proceedings.? (Central Court No 1 of the Audiencia
Nacional, Criminal preliminary proceedings 242/2008-10, Court Order of
the Judge Santiago Pedráz Gómez, Madrid, May 5, 2009). The judge
continues by stating that a copy of the lawsuit is enclosed ?In order
for them to exercise their right to defend themselves according to
Spanish criminal law and article 775 for them to designate an address in
Spain where they can be notified, while requesting authorization from
the Chinese Ministry of Justice for a judiciary commission to go to
China to question defendants, as formally accused, with legal assistance
should they refuse to do so before this central court.?

Other Chinese officials named in the lawsuit include Politburo member
Wang Lequan, Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,
who has overseen a series of hardline policies against the Uyghur
people, and Li Dezhu, the former Director of the State Ethnic Affairs
Commission, who was instrumental in guiding implementation of the
state?s centrally planned economic policies throughout the PRC?s western
regions including Tibet. TAR Party boss Zhang Qingli, also named, is
known for his virulent statements against the Dalai Lama and repressive
implementation of ?patriotic education? campaigns in Tibet that have
provoked and intensified dissent and instability. The suit against the
eight named leaders is an extension to another complaint filed by the
Tibet Support Committee in 2006. The earlier lawsuit accuses Chinese
leaders, including former President Jiang Zemin and former Prime
Minister Li Peng, of torture and crimes against humanity carried out in
Tibet during an earlier period.

ICT was among those giving evidence to Judge Pedráz in Spain?s Criminal
Court in Madrid over the past two weeks. Copies of five ICT reports were
submitted as part of the evidence, including the latest report on the
crackdown since protests broke out across Tibet in March 2008
and ?Tracking the Steel Dragon?, which focuses on China?s economic and
social policies in Tibet

Jose Elias Esteve Molto, a Professor of International Law at the
University of Valencia, and Alan Cantos of the Spanish Tibet Support
Committee (CAT), a research scientist in oceanography for more than 15
years, researched the lawsuits. Alan Cantos says: ?We wanted to explore
the many mechanisms for making the Chinese leadership accountable and
seeking justice for the Tibetan people that exist through the mechanisms
of international law. It is not possible to pre-empt an outcome, but in
the eventuality of a refusal by the leaders to testify, then any country
that has an extradition treaty with Spain can and should arrest them if
they are present in that country. This is an arrangement through
Interpol, not through the host government.?

Jose Elias Esteve Molto stresses that while Spain has broken new ground
in taking on such cases, any country can, and should, do so if enough
diligent research based on knowledge of national and international law
is carried out. ?The excuse sometimes given is that the crime is not
fully defined in national law. But international treaties signed by
countries in the EU are elsewhere such as the Genocide Convention, the
Committee against Torture, the Geneva Convention, or the Statute of
Rome, recognize that crimes against human beings transcend national
boundaries, and should then be prosecuted through national courts.?

ICT blog on the Madrid lawsuits:

Press contact: Kate Saunders Communications Director, ICT Tel: +44 7947
138612 email:
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