Legal reform by Spain's ruling party could shelve case against Chinese leaders over Tibet genocide charges

President Rajoy's Popular Party prepares bill that would de facto nullify arrest warrant against Jiang Zemin, four other leaders · Proposal is aimed at curtailing scope of universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity in Spanish courts

Right after it was known that Spain's Audiencia Nacional (National Court) had issued an arrest warrant against five former members of the Chinese communist leadership (including former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, left picture, and former Prime Minister Li Peng) over genocide charges in Tibet, the Chinese Government started to apply diplomatic pressure on Spain so that judges' inquiries would be shelved.

Two months later, Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP, the party to which Spanish President Mariano Rajoy belongs) has just launched a fast-tracked legal reform aimed at closing the file of the case and de facto nullify the arrest warrant. The legal reform intends to curtail the scope of universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity in Spanish courts. The bill, as introduced by PP, forsees that Spanish judges will only be able to investigate crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity -this would be the case of the Chinese leaders- if indictees are Spanish citizens or foreigners who have (or had) their habitual residence in Spain at the time when the crimes were committed, Spanish newspaper El País reports.

Given that the five Chinese leaders are neither Spanish citizens nor do they live in Spain (now or in the past), it would not possible to investigate them after the legal reform, which will be retroactively applied. The bill also foresees that a Spanish citizen will not be eligible to sue over torture if if he or she did not have Spanish nationality when the crimes were committed. This is exactly the case for Tibetan complainant Thubten Wangchen.

Alleged crimes and Chinese reaction

If the file of the case are finally shelved, denounces that the five Chinese leaders had turned Tibet into a "gigantic prison" would be put on hold. Complainants say that the Chinese Government applied coordinated policies in order to "eliminate the idiosyncrasy and the existence of the Tibetan people" through forced displacement, mass campaigns of sterilization, torture of opponents, and colonization of Tibet by ethnic Chinese people.

Immediately after the arrest warrant was known, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said that the whole situation had been artifially created by "Tibetan separatists" through "rumors and slander" against the Chinese Government in order to "damage [China's] bilateral relations with other countries", in this case with Spain. Hong further argues that those actions were "doomed to fail", since the Chinese position over the Tibetan conflict is "clear and consistent" and Spain "knows that".

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