Skip to main content

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

By Al Goodman, CNN
updated 4:24 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
[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
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
updated 11:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT