Global Policy Forum

Spain Throws Out Tibet Abuse Probe

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By Ciaran Giles

February 25, 2010


Spain's National Court has halted a probe into alleged Chinese abuses in Tibet, the first case to be ditched under a new law curbing Madrid's jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad.

The complaint against China was filed in 2008, more than a year before Spain's cross-border justice law was trimmed by Parliament. But the National Court said Friday the complaint still must be thrown out because the new law requires that cross-border cases have a clear link to Spain. The ruling can be appealed.

Since 2008 the court had been probing allegations that two Chinese government ministers and five other officials were responsible for repressing protests against Chinese rule in Tibet before the Beijing Olympics.

It was acting on a suit filed by two Spanish pro-Tibet rights groups which said the seven officials were responsible for at least 203 deaths, more than 1,000 injured and nearly 6,000 illegal arrests and disappearances during the March protests.

Spanish investigative magistrate Santiago Pedraz said at the time that the court was entitled to investigate under Spain's principle of universal jurisdiction for cases dealing with charges such as genocide and crimes against humanity, regardless of where they were allegedly committed.

That legislation allowed judges like Baltasar Garzon to prosecute egregious crimes committed in other countries even if there was no link to Spain.

The practice irked some countries targeted in probes by Spanish magistrates, particularly Israel and China, and led to accusations that Spain was behaving like a global policeman.

In response, the government reformed the law last November specifying that in future such cases could be undertaken only if there were Spanish victims of the crime or the alleged perpetrators were in Spain.

 

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