Skip to main content

Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for China's former President, Prime Minister

By Al Goodman, CNN
February 12, 2014 -- Updated 0924 GMT (1724 HKT)
[File photo] Former President of China Jiang Zemin (left) and former PM Li Peng in Beijing on 17 March (year unknown).
[File photo] Former President of China Jiang Zemin (left) and former PM Li Peng in Beijing on 17 March (year unknown).
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former President Jiang Zemin, former Prime Minister Li Peng are accused of genocide
  • Warrants against them and three other officials are the latest in a suit by pro-Tibetan groups
  • Tibet Support Committee chief: There's a chance they'll be arrested if they go abroad
  • Warrants come just before Spain debates seeking justice for foreign human rights abuses

Madrid (CNN) -- A Spanish judge issued international arrest warrants Monday for China's former President Jiang Zemin and former Prime Minister Li Peng for alleged genocide against the people of Tibet, Spain's National Court in Madrid said.

The warrants against them and three other senior Chinese officials are the latest chapter in a long-running lawsuit by pro-Tibetan groups and a dual Tibetan-Spanish citizen who seek international legal action against some Chinese officials.

Judge Ismael Moreno issued the arrest warrants for alleged "genocide, torture and crimes against humanity," and ordered them to be sent to Interpol, the international police agency, according to a copy of the order viewed by CNN.

The former officials will surely not be arrested in China, but there's a "medium chance" of them being arrested if they go abroad, "depending on the country and its ethics," said Alan Cantos, president of the Barcelona-based Tibet Support Committee.

Cantos expressed satisfaction with the judge's order, which his group has been pushing with its co-plaintiffs: the House of Tibet Foundation and Thubten Wangchen Sherpa Sherpa, a Tibetan who has lived in Spain for about 20 years and has Spanish citizenship.

"It shows that justice after all works, against all odds. If you let justice work, victims can have retribution," Cantos said.

The arrest warrants came on the eve of a debate in Spanish parliament, on Tuesday, that reportedly could restrict the use of the universal justice principle in Spanish courts. It holds that if human rights abuses aren't addressed in the country where they occurred, a separate country -- in this case, Spain -- has the right to seek legal action.

Spanish courts have applied the principle in trying to seek justice for abuses committed under some former Latin American military regimes, but some foreign governments have complained about Spanish courts meddling in their affairs.

Repeated phone calls to the Chinese Embassy in Madrid went unanswered.

On Tuesday, Hua Chunying, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said that Beijing was "strongly dissatisfied" and "firmly opposed to the erroneous acts" taken by Spanish agencies.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
It was supposed to be a class trip to a resort island. Instead, the ferry capsized, turning the afternoon into a deadly nightmare.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
It's hard not to be nervous, standing outside the Ebola isolation wards.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1258 GMT (2058 HKT)
Ukraine says it's forces have regained control of an airfield from Russian separatists. Nick Paton Walsh reports.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 2116 GMT (0516 HKT)
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis".
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Sky gazers caught a glimpse of the "blood moon" crossing the Earth's shadow Tuesday in all its splendor.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
A staff stands next to the propellers of Sun-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 HB-SIB seen in silhouette during its first exit for test on April 14, 2014 in Payerne, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight. Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
This solar-powered aircraft will attempt to circle the globe next year.
ADVERTISEMENT