The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the dismissals of two judicial investigations into alleged human rights violations by Chinese officials in Tibet, both of which had been the focus of diplomatic pressure by Beijing.
The decision definitively shelves the inquiries, which were opened by Spain’s High Court under the universal jurisdiction doctrine after human rights organizations and a Spanish national filed lawsuits against former top officials in China for alleged genocide in Tibet and the persecution of the Falun Gong religious group.
In February 2014, High Court Judge Ismael Moreno issued arrest warrants for former President Jiang Zemin, 88, former Prime Minister Li Peng, 86, and other Chinese Communist Party members on genocide charges.
The High Court was correct in dismissing the two cases under the new law, say justices
Officials in Beijing reacted angrily to the arrest warrants, saying that Moreno’s decision could affect bilateral relations. China holds approximately 20 percent of Spain’s foreign debt.
Under pressure, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last year changed the law to limit the judiciary’s powers to investigate human rights abuse cases in other countries.
Spanish judges can now only apply the universal justice doctrine if a defendant accused of human rights violations is Spanish or a foreigner who frequently resides in Spain, or is currently in the country and Spanish authorities have refused to allow their extradition.
The Supreme Court’s criminal section ruled that the High Court was correct in dismissing the two cases under the reform. Plaintiffs had asked the justices to review the decisions.
In 2004, 15 members of Falun Gong, backed by human rights groups, filed a lawsuit in the Spanish courts alleging that they had been persecuted by Chinese authorities since 1999.
The Supreme Court in 2006 gave the go-ahead for the investigation to continue against a number of Chinese officials, including Jia Qinglin, the then-chairman of the National Committee of the People’s Political Consultative Conference.
In the second case, Sherpa Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish national, filed a complaint in 2006 against the Chinese government for torturing dissidents and introducing martial law, forced displacements and mass sterilization campaigns in Tibet.