MADRID, Spain — In a groundbreaking case, following a two-year investigation, a Spanish judge has accepted charges of genocide and torture in a case filed against five high-ranking CCP officials for their role in the persecution of Falun Gong.
This is the first time that a court has recognised the campaign against the group as legally fitting the definition of genocide. If the defendants were in Spain, the Court could call them before the Judge for a hearing.
“This historic decision by a Spanish judge means that Chinese Communist Party leaders responsible for brutal crimes are now one step closer to being brought to justice,” said Carlos Iglesias, a local lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
Between 2003 and 2007 fifteen victims of persecution filed criminal complaints against each of the five officials under a Spanish law that enables individuals or their lawyers to initiate private prosecutions (acciones populares). Four complaints were combined into one case, the facts of which a judge from Spain’s National Court (Audiencia Nacional) has been investigating since 2006; the fifth was added later.
On Nov. 11, Iglesias received a letter from the National Court saying the charges of genocide and torture had been accepted.
Among the accused is ex-leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin. Jiang is widely acknowledged as the initiator and primary driver behind the campaign launched in 1999 to “eradicate” Falun Gong. According to Chinese regime statistics at the time, an estimated 70 to 100 million people were practicing the discipline that combines slow-moving exercises and spiritual teachings.
In order to implement Jiang’s decision to wipe out the group, the country’s state-run media, security apparatus, and network of “re-education through labor camps” were mobilized in full force. Since then, experts estimate that hundred of thousands, possibly millions, of practitioners have been sent to labor camps, prisons, and thought reform classes.
Human rights groups and Western media reports have documented the systematic use of torture to force them to renounce their faith. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, over 3,000 are documented to have been killed, many due to torture, since 1999.
“The perpetrators of the genocide and torture will be confronted with two trials,” Iglesias said. “One of justice in front of the courts, and another, judgement in front of history, for having committed the biggest of all atrocities: the persecution of millions of persons whose only intention is to improve their ethical, moral, and spiritual qualities, following universal values.”
Also facing charges of genocide and torture in the Spanish case is Luo Gan, former head of the 610 Office, an extrajudicial agency set up to lead and coordinate the campaign against Falun Gong. Chinese human rights lawyers have compared the 6-10 Office to Nazi Germany’s Gestapo in its operations, brutality, and extraordinary authority.
The other three accused are Bo Xilai, current Party Secretary for Chongqing and former Minister of Commerce; Jia Qinglin, the fourth-highest member of the Party hierarchy; and Wu Guanzheng, head of an internal Party disciplinary committee. The charges against the three are based on their alleged proactive advancement of the anti-Falun Gong campaign during their time as top officials in Liaoning, Beijing, and Shandong respectively.
According to evidence presented before the court, Jia had reportedly given speeches urging lower officials to persecute Falun Gong and commended security units for their "success" in the "fight" against the spiritual practice. In 2002, he made the campaign one of Beijing's top five priorities.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning article from 2000 by the Wall Street Journal’s Ian Johnson documents how financial punishments and political pressure imposed by Wu on his subordinates led Weifang city authorities to torture—and sometimes kill—local residents who practiced Falun Gong.
Each of the five accused officials will now receive a rogatory letter (letter of request) from Judge Ismael Moreno via diplomatic channels, according to Iglesias. The letter will include more than 20 questions relating to the individual’s involvement in the persecution against Falun Gong and will be written in both Spanish and Chinese. Failure to respond to the questions would bolster Judge Moreno's case for issuing an international arrest warrant. Iglesias said the accused will likely have four to six weeks to reply.
Judge Moreno has spent two years investigating the case, following a Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) ruling from June 2006 that ordered Spanish courts to accept the case based on a law enabling them to exercise universal jurisdiction. This legal principle allows domestic courts to hear cases of genocide and crimes against humanity regardless of where they occur and what the nationality of the defendant.
Evidence considered by the judge during the investigation process included written testimonies from fifteen Falun Gong practitioners and oral testimonies from seven. The judge also relied on reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Foundation, and the U.N. Commission of Human Rights to reach his decision, Iglesias said.
“The application of universal jurisdiction now brings this case to a decisive stage and shows that the Spanish justice system will defend victims of a genocide that is happening in the 21st century in China and that there will not be impunity for these crimes,” Iglesias said. “When one carries out the crime of genocide or torture, it is a crime against the international community as a whole and not only against Chinese citizens. Spain is emerging as a defender of human rights and universal justice.”
The case is part of both a broader trend in Spain and a larger effort by Falun Gong adherents and their lawyers to seek redress outside of China. Spanish courts propelled the movement of prosecuting international crimes in national courts when a judge issued an extradition request for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. More recently, they have begun investigations into genocide in Guatemala and Tibet. Meanwhile, more than seventy Falun Gong cases have been filed in at least 30 countries.
Iglesias said the plaintiffs may immediately ask for international criminal arrest warrants to be issued for the accused. “In Spain, you can’t have a trial without the defendants being present,” he said. If the accused do not travel to Spain, the justice system will work with other countries that have legal treaties with Spain to extradite them should they travel to those countries.
“We have to be vigilant when they travel,” Iglesias said. “Justice and the lawyers will not stop—they are knocking on the criminals' doors.”
Additional reporting by Zulema Núñez in Spain.
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