An appeal to protect universal justice in Spain

The International Campaign for Tibet and the Spanish Tibet Support Committee, Comité de Apoyo al Tibet (CAT) are targeting Spanish lawmakers to challenge the recent move in Madrid to limit the power of the judiciary to investigate and prosecute serious crimes under international law. This development follows pressure from the Chinese authorities on Madrid over two lawsuits focusing on China’s leadership for its policies in Tibet, and which has led to arrest warrants being issued by the Spanish courts for several Chinese officials. (Details in ICT report, Spanish Parliament ruling following arrest warrants for Chinese leaders ‘should be of concern to all European citizens’).

This new initiative follows the 100th meeting of the Tibet Intergroup in Brussels on February 19 (ICT press release, European Parliament marks its 100th meeting on Tibet with strong statements and a message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama) in which MEPs from all parties expressed their strong support for the Tibetan cause. Speakers Dr. José Elías Esteve Moltó, lawyer and author of the two ground-breaking law suits in Spain and Mr. Alan Cantos from Comité de Apoyo al Tibet (main plaintiffs), raised the importance of a unified front in Europe to support Spanish lawmakers who are seeking to prevent a change in the law that would limit courts in trying cases of the most serious crimes regardless of where they were committed and the nationality of the perpetrator and/or the victim. This development would put Spain in breach of its international obligations and offer the prospect of impunity to many responsible for serious crimes.

An important opportunity exists to defend this important principle of international law by launching an appeal to the constitutional court to declare the illegality of this proposed reform to the law. The International Campaign for Tibet and Comité de Apoyo al Tibet is calling upon members of the Socialist Party and other politicians in Spain to take this action immediately once the bill goes through the Spanish Senate, which is expected in a matter of weeks.

Comité de Apoyo Al Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet believes that the Spanish government should not set a dangerous precedent that would affect the whole system of international law by allowing an authoritarian government, in this case China, to decide how it should be applied.

If the reforms are approved, ICT and CAT recommends that an appeal should be launched to the constitutional court to declare the illegality of this development on the following basis:

  • Parties involved in the Spanish Parliamentary debate agreed that the reforms proposed are contrary to international law and to Spain’s constitution, specifically article 96.
  • The draft bill applies not only to future investigations but also to current investigations, meaning that all current cases in Spain on the basis of universal jurisdiction will be closed until it can be proven that they comply with the new requirements. It could also interfere with the independence of the judicial system as any decision to close a case should be taken by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
  • The proposed bill violates Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights by closing the doors of the Spanish courts to the victims of grave human rights violations who are unlikely otherwise to be able to obtain justice particularly within their own jurisdictions.

Comité de Apoyo al Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet are among more than 90 signatories of a joint NGO appeal urging Spanish lawmakers to reject a proposal aimed at closing the door on justice for the most serious crimes.

The full text of the letter is here: Spanish Lawmakers Should Reject Proposal Aimed at Closing the Door on Justice for the Most Serious Crimes). The international NGOs state: “The signatory organizations will continue to support the cause of justice for all victims of crimes under international law. Spain must respect the legality of its international obligations and be sensitive to the needs of victims. In the world’s struggle to end mass atrocities, Spain was once at the vanguard. We must not let it fall behind.”

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