Landmark Genocide Lawsuit Against Jiang Zemin on Firm Ground, Says Appeal Filed Today

U.S.-Ratified Treaties: Former Heads of State Have No Immunity for Crimes of Torture, Genocide

CHICAGO (FDI) – Dr. Terri Marsh, lead attorney in the ground-breaking lawsuit against former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and the 6-10 Office, filed a 60-page brief this morning in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The brief asks the Circuit Court to reverse the decision of the U.S. District Court and allow the case to go forward.

On October 22, 2002 Jiang Zemin visited Chicago. He received a welcome gift he had not counted on: his security detail was served with legal papers charging Jiang and the 6-10 Office (the Gestapo-like office created by Jiang in order to “eradicate” Falun Gong) with genocide, torture, and a conspiracy to commit violations of civil rights within the jurisdiction of the United States, among other crimes.

On September 23, 2003, after presiding over almost a year of legal maneuvers and argument, Judge Matthew F. Kennelly of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the case, ruling that Jiang as head of state had immunity and could not be sued.

Analysts note that this suit is unprecedented in suing a head of state while he is in office. It and other cases like it around the world represent an important, new application of existing law: an attempt to restrain through the use of the courts those responsible for the most terrible crimes – genocide and torture — while they are still in office and committing these acts.

No matter the outcome of this case, an important new precedent regarding the application of the doctrine of head-of-state immunity will result, which for some time to come will affect the hopes of those who seek redress in the courts of the United States for unspeakable wrongs they have suffered in other lands.

Jus Cogens Norms and Head-of-State Immunity

Dr. Marsh explained why Judge Kennelly’s decision should be reversed.

“In international law there are certain norms called jus cogens norms, which have a special status. These norms are absolute, and no violation of them is allowed. Such norms include prohibitions on genocide, slavery, murder, disappearance, and torture. The U.S. has ratified several treaties – such as the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide – agreeing to insure that these norms are not violated. In addition, there has been wide agreement present in legal decisions in international courts and U.S. courts about the existence of core protections that no government can legitimately deny.”

Dr. Marsh went on to observe that by definition, violations of these core protections, such as a systematic campaign of torture or genocide, are “unofficial,” “non-governmental,” and “private” acts.

“Everyone agrees that the doctrine of head-of-state immunity protects heads-of-state for their official, public acts. But the acts in question in our suit are not such official and public acts. They are the illegitimate, private acts about which there is wide agreement that immunity cannot apply.”

“In addition, even if one were to accept head-of-state immunity, that immunity only protects the head of state while in office; it does not exonerate the head of state. After leaving office, heads of state are no longer immune from prosecution for what they did while in office. This is a principle affirmed in the Marcos cases litigated here in the U.S., and in the cases against the former leader of Chile, Pinochet, and Yerodia Ndombasis (the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) –all three defendants had been charged with violations of jus cogens norms.”

“In fact, this District Court itself affirmed in a decision made in July, 2003 the principle that immunity no longer applies after an official leaves office. But Jiang did resign from the Presidency in March, 2003, and still the District Court in its decision in September failed to apply to Jiang’s case the precedent it had set three months before.”

“We believe the District Court will be reversed because it ignored these principles of law.”

Several leading human rights and international law experts are filing amicus briefs supporting today’s filing, including briefs by Morty Sklar on behalf of the World Organization for Human Rights, USA; by the highly respected academic expert Professor Jordan Paust; and by the Center for Justice and Accountability.

The Illegitimacy of Jiang’s Personal Campaign

Dr. Shiyu Zhou of the Falun Dafa Infocenter (FDI) commented on Jiang’s role in initiating the illegitimate campaign of torture and genocide against Falun Gong.

“We know that Jiang personally ordered the persecution of Falun Gong. He did so in spite of the objections of his own Premier and the members of the Permanent Standing Committee of the Politburo. They regarded his dictates as illegal and unconstitutional, which they are. Jiang ordered the creation of the 6-10 Office and gave direct orders to it to “eradicate” Falun Gong. When officials resisted obeying Jiang’s orders, Jiang toured the country and personally compelled obedience.”

FDI has confirmed over 860 deaths due to Jiang’s campaign. In fact, the true death toll is in the thousands. Hundreds of thousands have been arbitrarily detained, with at least one hundred thousand in forced labor camps. Over one thousand previously sane and healthy practitioners have been detained in mental hospitals, where psychiatrists and nurses torture them with extremely high doses of psychotropic drugs and electric shock, often causing irreversible damage to the central nervous system. The 6-10 Office seeks to identify and brainwash every single Falun Gong practitioner in China, with harsher treatment reserved for those who do not recant Falun Gong. In principle, every Falun Gong practitioner lives under a death threat.

Dr. Marsh explained the significance of this campaign. “The norms our brief appeals to are the foundations of any civilized order. The torture, brainwashing, and murder are violations of these foundations, and so must be condemned by all.”

“But what makes these violations even more terrible to consider is the purpose behind them. Jiang has set out to ‘eradicate’ a practice based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. These principles are constitutive of our humanity. Jiang’s personal campaign is in fact at war with what is good inside of all of us. A famous court decision, and one of the precedents for our case, speaks of the torturer being ‘the enemy of all mankind.’ No truer words could be spoken about Jiang Zemin.”

Pressure from the Chinese Government; Lawsuits Around the World

As soon as the lawsuit was filed in Chicago in October, 2002, the Chinese government began putting intense pressure on the U.S. government in an attempt to have it dismissed, pressure that has continued to this day. There have been reports from insiders of State Department officials receiving almost daily phone calls from the Chinese Embassy demanding the suit be gotten rid of, and of not so subtle threats that the U.S.-China relationship will be harmed.

Meanwhile, while Jiang has concentrated on squashing the Chicago lawsuit, eleven new lawsuits have popped up that name Jiang and/or senior Chinese officials who direct the persecution. In Spain, France, Belgium, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Moldova, Armenia, Cyprus, South Korea, and Taiwan, courts have been asked to rule on the genocidal campaign of Jiang and the 6-10 Office.

Dr. Marsh commented on these suits. “As soon as individuals understand the persecution against Falun Gong, they want to oppose it. This is happening all around the world, and I expect this movement around the world will only continue. By turning to the world’s courts, the peoples of the world are affirming that there are fundamental norms that cannot be violated, and they are condemning in the strongest possible terms the criminality of Jiang Zemin. There may be ups and downs in this process. Nevertheless, I am very confident it will continue to go forward and gather momentum, and we will see the persecution end.”