DHARAMSALA, October 11 – A Spanish court has agreed to hear charges against former Chinese president Hu Jintao in a genocide case. On Thursday, the Section 4 of the Criminal Court of Spain’s National Court (Audiencia Nacional) ruled in favour of an appeal by CAT (Comite de Apoyo al Tibet) to hear charges against Chinese authorities, for universal crimes committed against the Tibetan people.
The case was earlier dismissed on September 6th, 2005. The rejection appeared to contradict the fundamental laws underlying Spanish Judicial Procedure, and current judicial preference for applying universal jurisdiction in Spanish courts. It has also denied co-plaintiff, and Spanish citizen, Thupten Wangchen, from judicial recourse. In his report, the prosecutor of Court 2 stated that there was an insufficient "national connection" in order for the court to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction.
The court earlier rejected an appeal on 11 June 2013, with the support of the public prosecution, of the CAT’s request to extend the lawsuit to include the former president. After hearing the appeal on 29 July, the court said it now accepts the arguments put forward by the CAT to include Hu Jintao in the list of those accused of genocide.
The court argued that the earlier decision had to be overturned because one of the plaintiffs, Thubten Wangchen, is a Spanish citizen and because China had not carried out its own investigation into the allegations.
Courts can hear cases of crimes against humanity wherever they occur outside Spanish territory on the legal principle of universal competence. In 2009, the universality was limited to cases in which Spanish citizens are victims of such crimes.
The court’s decision follows lengthy proceedings which started in 2005, when Tibetan activist groups, one of them headed by Wangchen, asked the court to hold seven Chinese state leaders, including former President Jiang Zemin and former Premier Li Peng, responsible for crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Chinese government in Tibet. Not surprisingly however, China denounced the trial proceedings.
Hu Jintao served as Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region between 1988 and 1992, overseeing crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in 1989.
The court recognized “that this genocide is against the country of Tibet and against the Tibetan nation, and the judges recognise that this indictment of Hu Jintao comes at the precise judicial moment ‘when his diplomatic immunity expires’”, the Madrid-based CAT, a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement.
“We wish to dedicate this judicial success not only to the victims, but also to the thousands of “freedom fighters” and to the memory of all those who self-immolated in and outside Tibet, and those who risk their lives and their freedom in the face of the passivity of the international community whose silence is an accomplice to the genocide. Their sense of justice and their determination for truth is enshrined in this judicial battle that believes in these values in a non violent manner,” said Alan Cantos of CAT.