News / Asia

Spanish Court Seeks Arrest of Former Chinese Leaders in Tibet Case

FILE - Buddhist monk Thubten Wangchen (3rd R) and participants walk with Tibetan flags and images of Mahatma Gandhi during their march for "peace and non-violence" from Plaza d'Espanya [Spain Circus] to the Montjuich castle in Barcelona, Oct. 2, 2010.
FILE - Buddhist monk Thubten Wangchen (3rd R) and participants walk with Tibetan flags and images of Mahatma Gandhi during their march for "peace and non-violence" from Plaza d'Espanya [Spain Circus] to the Montjuich castle in Barcelona, Oct. 2, 2010.
Spain's National Court has ordered arrest warrants for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and four other officials on suspicion of involvement in alleged genocide in Tibet.

VOA obtained a copy of the ruling of the Madrid-based court from one of the plaintiffs on Tuesday.  The document, issued a day earlier, called for the arrest of former Chinese President Jiang and the other officials to enable authorities to question them about the genocide allegations.

The plaintiff that provided the document is the Tibet Support Committee (Comite de Apoyo Al Tibet), a Spanish group that advocates for the rights of Tibetans in China.

China had no immediate comment on the Spanish court's action. The court indicted another former Chinese president, Hu Jintao, in connection with the genocide case on October 9. That move prompted China's foreign ministry to denounce what it called an attempt to "interfere" in Beijing's "internal affairs."

The Tibet Support Committee filed suit against the former Chinese leaders in Spain because the European country enables its courts to prosecute alleged war crimes and genocide committed anywhere, provided the victims include Spanish citizens. One of the co-plaintiffs is a Tibetan Buddhist monk with Spanish citizenship, Thubten Wangchen.

Tibet Support Committee head Alan Cantos told VOA another reason his group is seeking prosecutions in Spain is that Chinese officials cannot be tried at the International Criminal Court. China has refused to ratify the Rome Statute that established the Netherlands-based court in 2002.

Speaking by phone from Madrid, Cantos said the five former Chinese leaders sought by the Spanish court will have to be careful about their movements.

"They stand accused of very serious crimes. And in a way, they are jailed in their own country, as they risk arrest if they leave their country. So, the impunity they enjoyed until now is seriously hindered by the accusations and by the orders of international arrest," said Cantos.

The other Chinese officials named in the arrest order include former prime minister Li Peng, former security chief Qiao Shi, former Communist Party official Chen Kuiyan and former family planning minister Pen Pelyun.

Spain's policy of granting universal jurisdiction to courts in war crimes and genocide cases allowed a Spanish judge to pursue charges against the late former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet. British authorities detained the former autocratic ruler in London in 1998 in connection with that case, but later released him on medical grounds.

In a commentary published Monday, Tokyo-based online magazine The Diplomat said most Spanish universal jurisdiction cases have not led to convictions of foreign suspects.  

The magazine said it is "virtually unthinkable" that China's indicted leaders will be extradited and forced to defend themselves before a Spanish court.

Cantos said his group's legal campaign against the former officials is about more than just a desire to see them in prison.

"The law is a long process from the moment you denounce the crimes, let the witnesses and experts unfold the truth and tell their story. All of that is part of justice and part of accountability. So in that respect, I think the signal sent by these cases is very significant, even though it may not end up in the classical movie theme of trial, verdict and jail," he said.

One notable success for Spain's universal jurisdiction system was the conviction of former Argentinean naval officer Adolfo Scilingo in 2005 for crimes against humanity. After he traveled to Spain voluntarily, a Spanish court sentenced Scilingo to hundreds of years in prison for complicity in throwing 30 people to their deaths from planes when Argentina was under military rule from 1976 to 1983, a period known as the "dirty war."

Cantos said Spain's National Court issued a second document on Monday, formally notifying former Chinese President Hu of the October indictment and requesting information about the leader's actions in Tibet.  The court has not said whether it seeks Hu's arrest.

The former president served as Communist Party chief of the Tibetan Autonomous Region from 1988 to 1992 and later as Chinese head of state from 2003 to 2013.

The region has been under the control of the Chinese Communist government in Beijing since 1950.

Many Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of repressing their religion and culture. China says Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and benefit from better living standards linked to Chinese investment in underdeveloped Tibetan regions.

The Tibet Support Committee welcomed the latest moves by the Spanish court as a hopeful sign for what it called "Tibetan victims of [Chinese] occupation and repression."  It said the action also is good for the "health of the Spanish judicial system and the separation of powers in our democracy."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid