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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spanish Courts Investigating China's Genocide in Tibet

Fantastic news today from Spain. The Spanish High Court will investigate seven Chinese officials, including former heads of state Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, on charges of genocide inside Tibet. Click here to view the whole story:
SPAIN'S High Court will investigate whether seven former Chinese leaders committed genocide in Tibet, after Madrid's top court ruled Spanish courts could try genocide cases even if they did not involve Spaniards.

The criminal suit, filed by three Tibet support groups, was thrown out last September by a lower court but shortly afterwards Spain's Constitutional Court made the ruling on foreign genocide cases and the groups appealed.

The High Court said in an official document overnight it would investigate the genocide accusations against former President Jiang Zemin, former Prime Minister Li Peng, former party chiefs in Tibet Ren Rong, Yin Fatang and Chen Kuiyan, former security chief Qiao Shi and former Family Planning Minister Deng Delyun.

The case accuses the top officials, who were in office during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, of authorizing massacres and torture in Tibet. The court could call for Chinese authorities to arrest those accused and even impound their property.

No one at the Chinese embassy in Madrid was available to comment on the suit.

"We have been working for almost nine years to do this well to present all the evidence properly and in line with the law and we are ... very happy and excited that this first path towards justice in Tibet is opening up," Alan Cantos, Spanish president of the Tibet Support Committee, said on state radio.

Spain's laws of universal jurisdiction for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity now applies even in cases where Spanish citizens are not harmed. The law is a remarkable example of the possibilities for universalizing human rights protections through the rule of law. Not just unenforceable international laws, but the laws of a country with a strong judiciary and a government to implement their rulings.

If Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and the other Chinese officials are indicted by the Spanish High Court, they will be subject to arrest if they enter Spain or any country that has an extradition treaty with Spain. One of my sources, an expert in Spanish law, says this would include almost any Western country. Countries that do not have universal jurisdiction but do have extradition agreements would be under even more pressure to comply with any requests by a Spanish judge to have a suspect extradited to Spain. It is not clear, though, the extent to which countries would be willing to do this. In the past Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Belgium, and the United Kingdom have demonstrated their willingness to extradite suspects under Spains universal jurisdiction laws.

This case presents an opportunity for the Tibetan people to receive at least a modicum of justice. The Chinese government and these officials in particular needs to be held accountable for the million plus Tibetans dead as a result of China's occupation of Tibet, for the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, and the systematic repression of Tibetan culture. The indictment and eventual commitment of the Chinese leaders who were both architects and orchestrators of China's genocide inside Tibet would be a small step in the right direction of restoring Tibetan statehood. China cannot expect to be treated as a member of the respected international community as long as it harbors those responsible for Tibetan genocide.

It should also be noted that Spain's continued effort to root out and bring to justice those responsible for the great crimes of the twentieth century. The perpetrators of genocide and war crimes should have no safe harbor in a modern, liberal world. Spain succeeded in convicting Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity. Hopefully they'll also succeed in bringing Jiang Zemin and Li Peng to justice. The world will be a better place if they do.

[UPDATE]: International Crimes Blog has a great post explaining the history of the Tibet case in Spain, Spain's evolving universal jurisdiction law, and how the case might play out.


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