Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Spanish judge seeks arrest of former Chinese president over Tibet

A Spanish judge on Monday sought the arrest of China’s former president and premier over accusations of genocide in Tibet in an eight-year-old case that prompted a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

High Court Judge Ismael Moreno asked Interpol to issue orders for the detention of former President Jiang Zemin, ex-premier Li Peng and three other officials for questioning on charges brought by Tibetan rights groups in Spain.

However, the case may not progress as Spain’s ruling People’s Party is pushing through rules to limit judges’ ability to pursue cases under universal jurisdiction, the principle that crimes against humanity can be prosecuted across borders.

This is the same concept used by former judge Baltasar Garzon to bring about the arrest of Chile’s ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998. Pinochet was eventually allowed to return to Chile for health reasons.

“Jiang exercised supervisory authority over the people who directly committed abuses, which makes him responsible for acts of torture and other major abuses of human rights perpetrated by his subordinates against the people of Tibet,” Moreno wrote in the order, citing lawyers for the Tibetan plaintiffs.

Moreno asked Interpol to issue the arrest order seeking Jiang’s detention for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. He issued similar orders for Li and other Chinese officials in the 1980s and 1990s.

“(China) is extremely dissatisfied with and resolutely opposed to the wrong actions of the relevant Spanish organ taken while ignoring China’s solemn position,” China’s Foreign Ministry said it would tell Spain.

“Whether or not this issue can be appropriately dealt with is related to the healthy development of ties,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing. “We hope the Spanish government can distinguish right from wrong.”

Plots by overseas Tibetans to besmirch China’s name using cases like this would never succeed, she added.

Interpol, the international police organisation, issues Red Notices for wanted people, based on judicial orders from courts in its 190 member countries. Police in member countries can detain wanted persons on their soil based on the alerts.

China’s Foreign Ministry called on Spain on Friday to prevent further lawsuits that seek to investigate alleged rights abuses in Tibet.


Trade and investment between Spain and China grew at the beginning of the past decade but have stagnated in Spain’s long economic and financial crisis. Spain had a 12 billion euros trade deficit with China last year, down from 14 billion euros a year earlier.

Inditex, which owns the Zara clothing brand, has textile plants in China and has been opening more stores, but banks and telecommunications firms have scaled back investments there.

Communist Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. China says it “peacefully liberated” the Himalayan region, which it says was mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation.

Two Tibetan support groups and Thubten Wangchen, a Tibetan Buddhist monk with Spanish citizenship, brought a case in Spain in 2006 against the former Chinese leaders.

Tibet is the latest high-profile cause to be taken up in Spain’s courts. Over the years a number of Spanish judges have tried to charge, arrest or question international figures over human rights accusations.

In one case that caused friction with the United States, a Spanish judge sought to question U.S. military officers over the death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso who died when a U.S. tank fired on a hotel housing journalists in the Iraq war in 2003.

Years after the Pinochet case, Garzon tried to use the principle of universal jurisdiction to dig into human rights crimes during Spain’s Francisco Franco 1936-1975 dictatorship, saying amnesty laws passed in the 1970s violated rights laws.

Garzon was put under investigation for allegedly overstepping his role in the Franco case. He was suspended from the bench in 2010 in a separate case after he was found guilty of wire-tapping telephone conversations between jailed corruption suspects and their lawyers.

Children of Tibetan refugees can now vote

The Election Commission (EC) has ordered all states to include children of Tibetan refugees in the electoral list. This is for the first time in 55 years that voting rights will be conferred on Tibetans in exile in the country.

According to the orders dated February 7, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955, can no longer be denied enrollment in voters’ list. The move on part of the EC comes in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees.

There are about 1.20 lakh Tibetan refugees currently living across the country with their largest settlement being in Bylakuppe in Karnataka. The Tibetan parliament-in-exile is based in Dharamshala elected by a 90,000-strong voter base spread across 53 settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The EC’s move evoked mixed reactions from the community with several pro-Tibet activists terming this as a relief for Tibetan refugees who are currently deemed “stateless”. Karma Yeshi, a member of Tibetan parliament-in-exile, said, “Our aim is not to settle in India, but to eventually go back to Tibet. However, we cannot stop people from asserting their citizenship rights.”

Friday, 7 February 2014

China tells Spain to prevent Tibet-related lawsuits

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry called on Spain on Friday to prevent the launch of further lawsuits that seek to probe alleged Chinese rights abuses in the restive region of Tibet.
Two Tibetan support groups and a monk with Spanish nationality brought a case in Spain against former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and ex-prime minister Li Peng in 2006 over allegations they committed genocide in Tibet.

They were using a Spanish law that allows suspects to be tried for human rights abuses committed abroad when a Spanish victim is involved.
The two former leaders and three other high-ranking officials who worked in the government in the 1980s and 1990s, are accused of human rights abuses in the Himalayan region.

In the latest move in the case, a Spanish judge this week rejected an appeal by the public prosecutor against the issuing of arrest warrants for Jiang and Li, originally made in November.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing was asking Madrid to "clarify" what was happening and expected Spain to prevent such cases from recurring.

"The Tibet issue is a core interest for China and the feelings of the people, and is extremely sensitive," he told a daily news briefing.

He said China hoped Spain would "not send a wrong message to Tibetan separatist forces", take steps "not to allow Spanish territory to be used for anti-China splittist activities" and "prevent such incidents from happening again".

Spain's Prime Minister's office declined to comment on the case.

Communist Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. China says it "peacefully liberated" the remote region that it says was mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation.

Exiles and rights groups say China tramples on the religious, cultural and linguistic rights of Tibetans and enforces its rule using brutal methods.
Though it is unlikely Jiang or Li will end up in a Spanish dock, the case is reminiscent of the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998 after a warrant was issued by former Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon.

Spain's ruling People's Party is pushing on with a reform of this law that would restrict the capacity of Spanish judges to act to within the country's borders.
In October, another ruling by the same Spanish court indicted former Chinese president Hu Jintao for alleged genocide in Tibet. China's government denounced that move as interfering in its internal affairs.