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Joint Statement: Spanish Government Tibet Lawsuits

posted Dec 24, 2013, 1:40 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
By International Tibet Network (December 19, 2013)

 Tibet campaigners deeply concerned about Spanish government threats to close down Tibet lawsuits.

Decisions by Spain’s independent judiciary to indict and order arrest warrants for former Chinese leaders have angered China.

Alan Cantos, Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet, email
Wangchuk Shakabpa, International Tibet Network Steering Committee and Tibet Justice Centre, + 1 212-481-3569 or Alison Reynolds, International Tibet Network Secretariat, + 44 7711 843884

The International Tibet Network [1] is deeply concerned about reports that Mariano Rajoy´s Spanish government is intending to limit the independence of Spain’s judiciary, in a clearly political move to close down a ground-breaking Tibet lawsuit that implicates Chinese leaders. On 15 December El Pais, quoting Spanish Justice Ministry sources, reported that changes to Spain’s Organic Act of the Judicial Power may be presented as early as January [2]. In recent weeks there have been a number of significant developments in the Tibet lawsuit, to which China has responded with anger; on 9 October 2013, Spain’s Audiencia Nacional (National Court) indicted Chinese former President and Party Secretary Hu Jintao for genocide and other grave crimes in Tibet, and on 18 November 2013, judges ordered that warrants of arrest be issued against five Chinese leaders, including another former President and Party Secretary, Jiang Zemin [3].

“We condemn the Spanish government for any attempt to override Spain’s universal duty to prevent and punish the most egregious human rights violations in Tibet, as offenses against all humanity” said Alan Cantos, of Madrid-based Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet, which filed the lawsuit [4]. “It is unacceptable for China to attempt to exert strong-arm political pressure against an impartial criminal investigation that is a matter of Spain’s judicial sovereignty, and we urge the Spanish government to stand firm.”

The indictment of Hu Jintao relates both to the period he was Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (1988 – 1992), when he presided over martial law in 1989, and his responsibility for Tibet policy as Party Secretary and President of China (2002/03 – 2012/13) “due to being the highest ranking person in both the Party and the Government”. Hu Jintao lost immunity when he stepped down as China’s President in March 2013. The final two years of Hu’s Presidency were marked by a wave of self-immolations in Tibet, which have continued throughout the first year of China’s new leadership, despite an increasingly harsh crackdown. At least 125 Tibetans have now self-immolated in occupied Tibet, including Tsultrim Gyatso, a monk from Tsoe, eastern Tibet, who died earlier today.

China has reacted angrily to the Tibet lawsuit. On 17 October Zhu Weiqun, a senior Communist Party official, said “This is ridiculous. Anyone thinking in this way brings humiliation to himself and if courts of any country accept the accusation, they are bringing disgrace to themselves as well. Pursuing a lawsuit against China shows nothing but the weakening of some countries nowadays. It does not surprise me if this malicious prosecution was plotted by the Dalai clique. If any country accepted the lawsuit, it would only be faced with a terrible embarrassment. I would like to use a cliché of Chinese people, “Come if you are bold enough.”[5]

Wangchuk Shakabpa, a member of the International Tibet Network Steering Committee and Board Member of Tibet Justice Center said, “We urge the Spanish people and government to stand fast for the democratic principle of judicial independence from political interference, and to support the internationally recognized human rights standards that these Tibet lawsuits are investigating. Such cases should be based on the strength of evidence and a commitment to serving justice, not the political power of the perpetrator.  It is an affront to Spain’s judicial sovereignty, to the victims, and to universal principles of human rights that the Spanish government is considering surrendering to Beijing’s political pressure.”

Experts have already begun to express their outrage in Spain. Court lawyer Manuel Ollé said: “the government wants to make himself plaintiff, prosecutor and judge and that is how democracy ends”. Ollé was referring to the news that proposed legal changes would mean that the Spanish government could invoke reasons of “general interest” to prevent judges from investigating crimes of genocide committed abroad. Anchorman Carles Francino, who was interviewing Ollé on his radio programme La Ventana (Cadena Ser), said: “(This) adds to the general hypocrisy of all the speeches about human rights that they have been delivering only days ago during the funerals of Nelson Mandela.” [6]


  1. International Tibet Network is a global coalition of 190 Tibet-related campaign groups
  2. An english translation of this article, provided by Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet (CAT) is available here
  3. See RFA, 11 October, and Washington Post, 19 November:
  4. Spain’s National Court is dealing with two criminal lawsuits brought by CAT, filed in 2005 and 2008. The later lawsuit is currently suspended and on appeal at the Spanish Constitutional Court, due to a disputed reform in the law to limit retroactively the application of Universal Jurisdiction, by invoking the need of a “national connection” and Spanish victim(s).
  5. See
  6. This interview is available (in Spanish) via
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