Spanish legal team in London as China threatens Tibet case

In early March 2014, Tibet Justice Center organised for the legal team behind the high profile Tibet cases in the Spanish courts –  lawyer and lecturer in law at the University of Valencia, Jose Elias Esteve, and Director of Tibetan NGO, Comitie de Apoyo al Tibet, Alan Cantos – to come to the United Kingdom on a high profile visit to meet with UK lawyers, academics and the Tibetan community in Britain, in a bid to raise more international awareness and support to oppose the legal reforms that are currently being pushed through the Spanish Senate, which amount to, as Jose put its, an “annihiliation of the concept of universal jurisdiction in Spain”.


Alan and Jose met 12 years ago through work in the Tibetan exile community, and nearly a decade ago launched the case. This accuses 8 high profile Chinese leaders, including ex-Presidents Hu Jinato and Jiang Zemin, and ex-Prime Minister Li Peng, of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and genocide of the Tibetan people.  Despite being the world’s leading light in the  use of universal jurisdiction to pursue perpetrators of serious international crimes, Spain’s judiciary was from the start beset by political pressure from China. However, Fall 2013 saw major breakthroughs  – in October, an order for international arrest warrants went out for five of the accused, and in November, Hu Jintao was indicted on the same chargesheet as the others.

China responded with outrage and political pressure, sending a delegation to the Spanish Congress in December 2013 to demand the cessation of the Tibet case. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s right wing government in Spain has in turn gone to great lengths to fast-track changes to the legislation around universal jurisdiction. On 11 February 2014, the parliament debated the proposed change. With Rajoy leading a majority government, the debate was a formality. Hope remains, as the Spanish Socialists have promised to lodge an appeal at the Constitutional Court of Spain, contesting the constitutionality of the reform. Right now, the Tibet case, and Spain’s proud judicial history on international crimes, hang in the balance. So too does the balance of European countries’ relationship with China vis a vis international law. What happens in Spain ultimately will have an impact in other places.

_DSC3317During the London tour, Alan and Jose addressed students, lawyers , journalists, academics and human rights activists. Their message was the same. This isn’t just about Spain. Democratic values are under attack. China is dismantling universal jursidiction for its own ends, at a cost to justice everywhere. Engaged audiences seized upon what they could do. The answer was to write to the Spanish socialists, make noise, congratulate them on their decision to appeal, and ask them to follow through. Jose and Alan also asked people to consider pursuing their own criminal case against China for crimes in Tibet. In the UK, this would also serve as a test to the robustness of the legal system, to the independence of its powers.


Watch the video of the event at University of Westminster –



As a result of the tour, a high profile group of barristers and chambers put forward an open letter to the Spanish Socialists applauding their commitment to lead on the appeal of the reform, and urging they do so. You can read it here –

You can help by spreading this letter around on social media. You can also help by writing your own letter to the Spanish Socialists:

PSOE- Partido Socialista Obrero Español

Ferraz, 70
28008 Madrid


Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (Secretary General) :

Soraya Rodríguez (PSOE spokeswoman):

José Antonio Griñan (President of PSOE):