February 10, 2014 / 2:45 PM / 6 years ago

Spain orders arrest of former Chinese president, others over Tibet

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish High Court Judge Ismael Moreno on Monday sought international arrest orders for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, ex-Prime Minister Li Peng and others on allegations of genocide in Tibet.

China's President Jiang Zemin (L) talks with top lawmaker Li Peng, Chairman of the National People's Congress, during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in this March 3, 2002 file picture. REUTERS/Andrew Wong/Files

The case against the former Chinese leaders was brought by human rights groups under Spain’s recognition of universal jurisdiction - the principle that crimes against humanity can be prosecuted across borders.

It is the same concept used by Spain’s former judge Baltasar Garzon to bring about the 1998 arrest of Chile’s ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet in London. Pinochet was eventually allowed to return to Chile for health reasons.

“Jiang exercised supervisory authority over the people who directly committed abuses, which makes him responsible for acts of torture and other major abuses of human rights perpetrated by his subordinates against the people of Tibet,” Moreno wrote in his ruling.

The judge ordered Interpol to issue the arrest order seeking capture and imprisonment of Jiang for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. He issued similar orders for Li and other Chinese officials in the 1980s and 1990s.

China’s Foreign Ministry called on Spain on Friday to prevent further lawsuits that seek to probe alleged Chinese rights abuses in the restive region of Tibet.

Two Tibetan support groups and a monk with Spanish nationality brought a case in Spain in 2006 against the former Chinese leaders over allegations they committed genocide in Tibet.

Over the years a number of Spanish judges have charged international figures with human rights crimes and tried to have them arrested and brought to Spain for questioning.

Spain’s ruling People’s Party is pushing a reform of the country’s recognition of the principle of universal jurisdiction that could restrict the capacity of judges to act beyond the country’s borders.

Communist Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. China says it “peacefully liberated” the Himalayan region it says was mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation

Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Paul Day

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