A Spanish court on Tuesday ordered that international warrants of arrest be issued for ex-Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four other former senior leaders in a case brought by rights groups alleging crimes of genocide in Tibet.
The action by Spain’s National Court was pursued under the law of “universal jurisdiction,” raising the possibility that those named in the warrants could be taken into custody to face trial if they travel outside of China.
The court’s decision sends a “strong signal” to China’s leaders, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a statement Tuesday.
“None of the leaders named, and others too, are likely to take the risk of traveling outside the [People’s Republic of China] as they could be arrested for questioning on the crimes they are accused of,” ICT said, adding, “All the leaders face the possibility of bank accounts overseas being preventively frozen.”
Last month, Spain’s National Court agreed to hear charges of genocide in Tibet against former Chinese president Hu Jintao, drawing a rebuke from Beijing, which called the move an “attack” on the Chinese government.
China consistently rejects all outside criticism of its policies in Tibet as interference in its internal affairs, claiming that the complaints are orchestrated by a group, or “clique,” led by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
The Spanish legal system recognizes the universal justice principle, under which genocide or war-crimes suspects can be put on trial outside their home country, but Spanish law requires that any case brought forward must directly involve Spain or a citizen or resident of Spain.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Thubten Wangchen, an ethnic Tibetan, is a Spanish citizen.
Political, military links
Announcing its ruling Tuesday, the Spanish court pointed to “indications of participation” by Jiang and four other former leaders in genocide and crimes against humanity in Tibetan areas of China given their “political or military responsibility” at the time the acts were committed.
Also named in the warrants were Li Peng, China’s premier during periods of crackdown in Tibet in the late 1980’s and early 1990s; Qiao Shi, state security chief during a period of martial law in Tibet in the late 1980s; Chen Kuiyuan, ruling Chinese Communist Party Secretary in Tibet from 1992-2001; and Deng Delyun, former head of family planning in the 1990s.
In pursuing its investigation, the court had considered testimony from former Tibetan political prisoners and international experts, and had reviewed extensive documentation of abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings, committed by Chinese security forces in Tibet.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Spanish activist Alan Cantos hailed the latest court decision, though he said the orders for arrest may not be quickly carried out.
“It’s not easy, but it’s a big step,” said Cantos, president of Spain’s Tibet Support Committee, which brought the case pursued by the National Court.
The former Chinese leaders named in the warrants are “stuck in their own country, and a competent court is pointing a finger at them,” Cantos said.
“It’s so they don’t have it too easy,” he said.