The director of a Spanish-based Tibet support group has vowed to appeal a court decision quashing international arrest warrants issued for Chinese leaders accused of crimes in Tibet, calling the court’s move a result of “blatant and shameful” capitulation to pressure from Beijing.
On June 23, Spain’s National Court ruled, in a 9-7 vote, to end a long-running investigation into allegations of genocide and violations of human rights brought against two former Chinese presidents and other officials by the Tibet support group Comite de Apoyo al Tibet (CAT).
The move followed a decision in March by Spain’s center-right parliament to narrowly limit investigations carried out under the law of “universal jurisdiction,” under which genocide or war-crimes suspects can be put on trial outside their home country.
The court’s move to close the case reflected strong disagreement among the ruling judges, CAT director Alan Cantos told RFA’s Tibetan Service in an interview.
“Even though one has to respect the ruling, this was a very narrow margin, and there are many judges that are questioning it,” Cantos said.
“We are going to question it at the Constitutional Court and at the Supreme Court, so there is still hope that the case can be reopened.”
Pressure from Beijing
Spain’s changes to how the law of universal jurisdiction may be applied by its courts were a result of pressure brought by Beijing and are being challenged in parliament by the Spanish Socialist Party, Cantos said.
“This was a blatant submission, and it should not create a precedent, because this will mean that China is beginning to rule our democracies,” he said.
“One of the pillars of a healthy democracy is the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches,” Cantos said. “And if another country comes and tells us what to do—and we as a modern democracy start breaking the independence of our judicial system—we have a big problem.”
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.
“We went from fighting in court for the truth of Tibet against the Chinese, and now we are fighting our own government for submitting to China and for trying to change a very important law,” Cantos said.
In a June 23 statement, China’s foreign ministry welcomed Spain’s dismissal of the case against the former Chinese leaders, pointing to the two countries’ “traditional friendship.”
“The two sides are able to respect and support the other party’s core interests and concerns, ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, according to a Reuters report.
Meanwhile, Alison Reynolds of the London-based International Tibet Network called the actions of the Spanish parliament and court “hugely disappointing,” noting in a June 27 statement that international warrants for the arrest of former Chinese leaders were issued before the case was closed.
Reynolds said that Spain’s "shameless kowtowing to China" cannot change the fact that the warrants had been issued.
And though the court’s dismissal of the case has left those warrants null and void, “they can be reactivated if the case is restored after the appeals,” Cantos told RFA.