German Falun Gong Information Centre: Demanding an End to the Former Chinese Head of State's Escape From Punishment

Hearing before the Appeals Court in Chicago regarding the lawsuit against Jiang Zemin, initiator of the Falun Gong Persecution

On October the 18th 2002, American lawyer Dr. Terri Marsh, representing several victims of the Falun Gong persecution in China, filed a lawsuit with the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago against Jiang Zemin. He was then the Chinese Head of State. The defendants in the suit included the “610 Office,” which Jiang Zemin had established for the specific purpose of persecuting Falun Gong. The suit charges Jiang Zemin with acts of torture, genocide and crimes against humanity.

On September the 12th 2003, the District Court dismissed the suit against Jiang Zemin on the basis of his right to immunity as head of state. The public widely criticised this decision. The plaintiffs filed an appeal on January the 12th 2004 with the Appeals Court in Chicago.

Dr. Marsh had this to say: “Even accepting his protection under immunity as head of state while in office, that does not absolve him later on. After leaving office, heads of state are no longer subject to the same privileges of not answering for the crimes they committed while in office.”

On Thursday May the 27th 2004, attorneys, plaintiffs and others functioning as amicus curiae will have an opportunity to verbally address the Appeals Court in Chicago and voice their views.

Jiang put tremendous pressure on the American government after the original lawsuit was filed to influence the court, claiming that he is protected under the immunity for heads of state statute. The American government cannot represent the defendant, but produced documentation via an amicus curiae brief.

Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck: Major Message for the Chicago Lawsuit on May 27th

Regarding this event, attorney Wolfgang Kaleck expounded the significance of this appeal in his message. He cited lawsuits brought by various nations, but in particular pointed out words from a German lawsuit brought in Karlsruhe on November 23, 2003, beginning with a quote. The following is his statement:

“When it concerns fundamental human rights, life and freedom and protection from torture, arbitrary curtailing of freedom of movement and discrimination, those things that are precursors for an upright path, then there cannot be any relativities or compromises in the basic attitudes.”

Thus spoke German President Rau in his speech concerning human rights in China, entitled “The principles of law – preconditions for a modern society,” delivered during his trip to China on December the 9th 2003 to an assembly at the University of Nanjing.

On November 21st 2003, forty individuals from China, Canada, Ireland, Australia the U.S.A. and Germany filed a lawsuit in Karlsruhe against the former Chinese head of state, Jiang Zeming and other government officials from the PRC. The suit charges them with murder, torture, genocide, grave bodily harm and other crimes, perpetrated against Falun Gong practitioners between 1999 and 2003.

Since then, the Federal Court in Germany has held preliminary sessions to determine whether or not a formal fact-finding process will be initiated. Since similar procedures in Germany dealing with human rights violations have been heard in Germany, those involving China were formally initiated shortly after a suit was filed. We are sure that this lengthy consideration process is a hopeful sign that the Federal Court is seriously considering this case.

It is of course highly desirable that those Falun Gong practitioners who have suffered torture and death could have their cases resolved in China. But the conditions in China are, as ever, not suited for this. Witnesses to these atrocities, as well as their family members, are threatened and frequently end up as persecution victims themselves. For political reasons, China does not want lawsuits being filed by victims, nor does China welcome the work of human rights organisations. Filing lawsuits and expecting them to lead to a conviction is an impossibility. It is further impossible, for various reasons, to utilise the newly established International Criminal Court in The Hague for these cases.

That is why so many suits have been filed in several European, North American and Asiatic countries, both civil and criminal: to put an end to the possibility that those arch criminals in China might escape punishment. Investigators in all these countries must collect evidence to supply third-party countries and eventually China herself with proof of crimes committed against human rights and to bring these people to justice.

Even now, all these lawsuits, formal complaints and processes serve the important function of letting the international community know of and explain the facts pertaining to these human rights violation, to show solidarity with affected people in China and strengthen their hope, and also to put pressure on the Chinese government, so that human rights violations and oppression against Falun Gong practitioners will stop immediately. These lawsuits and undertakings also serve the purpose of exposing crimes from the past and to bring those responsible before the courts.”

Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, Berlin

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