- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

A lawsuit charging Chinese President Jiang Zemin with torture and genocide against members of the Falun Gong religious sect is inching its way through the U.S. federal court system, where victims hope to hold him accountable for "crimes against humanity."
A judgment on whether Mr. Jiang will have to face trial in U.S. federal court could come this spring.
"It is clear that Jiang Zemin is behind the torture, ordered the torture, and should be held responsible," said Terri Marsh, the Washington-based attorney for the victims.
Using the Alien Tort Claim Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, Ms. Marsh filed papers with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois Oct. 18, four days before Mr. Jiang made a brief visit to the city.
The Chinese Embassy said yesterday that the lawsuit was unwarranted based on the "principal of sovereign immunity."
"The true motive behind the lawsuit is to try to disrupt the normal exchanges between our government," a Chinese Embassy official said on condition of anonymity. "Falun Gong is an evil cult, not a religious organization, that is becoming increasingly radical and violent."
Similar cases have been dismissed quickly as courts rule that sitting heads of state have immunity from prosecution. For example, human rights lawsuits against Cuba's Fidel Castro, and most recently Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, have failed because the leaders are considered immune.
At the request of the Chinese government, the State Department and the Justice Department filed a brief in the case with the opinion that Mr. Jiang had immunity, Ms. Marsh said.
On Monday, the court gave Ms. Marsh 60 days to prepare her argument stating why the case against Mr. Jiang should go forward.
Ms. Marsh said she hopes to persuade the judge to expand the interpretation of the law to allow some heads of state to be held accountable.
"If Hitler visited the United States during the Holocaust, would this country have offered him immunity?" she said. "If you look at all the cases dealing with heads of state, there is a lot of language supporting expanding the category."
She said the State Department brief was pro forma and that the agency's annual human rights report detailing Chinese government abuses against Falun Gong, Tibetans, Christians and other religious groups was a better representation of the U.S. position.
The lawsuit charged that Mr. Jiang, as president of China, created Office 610 "specifically to persecute and torture Falun Gong practitioners."
Jennifer Green is a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a modern pioneer of the 1789 Alien Tort Law.
In a 1978 case, Joel Filartiga, a Paraguayan living in the United States, heard that a former Paraguayan policeman who had tortured his son to death was residing in his neighborhood. The CCR dug up the 200-year-old statute and used it to win a judgment against the policeman for $10 million.
Ms. Green said no one, including in the Filartiga case, has ever collected any money in successful human rights cases against torturers.
"The priority is not really on money. People usually say things like, 'Someone finally believed me,'" she said. "The priority is on finding out what happened and holding someone responsible in court."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide