(FDI) Members of U.S. Congress Urge U.S. Court to Proceed with Lawsuit against Former Chinese Communist Leader - Jun. 11, 2003
NEWS - Jun. 11, 2003 Falun Dafa Information Center
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Members of U.S. Congress Urge U.S. Court to Proceed with Lawsuit against Former Chinese Communist Leader
"This lawsuit was filed not to embarrass China, but to persuade the defendants to end their persecution of Falun Gong ... it is highly consistent with the goals set forth in [U.S. Department of State’s] annual review of human rights."
-- Members of U.S. Congress
Members of U.S. Congress filed an Amicus brief with a U.S. District Court in Illinois urging the court to proceed with a lawsuit charging former Chinese Communist leader, Jiang Zemin, with genocide, crimes against humanity and other charges. (full text)
WASHINGTON DC (FDI) -- Members of the U.S. Congress filed an Amicus brief with a U.S. District Court in Illinois urging the court to proceed with a lawsuit charging former Chinese Communist leader, Jiang Zemin, with genocide, crimes against humanity and other charges. (full text
The brief was authored by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), the ranking democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, and filed with the court yesterday.
"As members of the U.S. Congress... we have a significant and abiding interest in this lawsuit," the brief begins.
Among the "interests" Congress has taken in the lawsuit against Jiang are issues of human rights, which "have long been considered a key aspect of U.S. foreign policy, and in ways which particularly involve the United States Congress," the brief argues. The brief lists a number of laws enacted by Congress -- some of which are utilized in this lawsuit -- as vehicles to "protect citizens around the world from human rights abuses and violations."
"This lawsuit was filed not to embarrass China, but to persuade the defendants to end their persecution of Falun Gong," states the brief. "It is highly consistent with the goals set forth in [U.S. Department of State’s] annual review of human rights."
In March, the U.S. State Department issued its annual Human Rights Report, in which Falun Gong was mentioned more than 80 times, highlighting the severe persecution against the practice in virtually every section of the report, including "arbitrary" and "unlawful" killings, arrest and detention as well as denial of freedom of belief, speech, assembly and association. (news)
Central to the Congressional Amicus brief, however, are concerns raised by a Department of Justice Amicus brief filed at the end of last year, arguing that the lawsuit against Jiang should be dismissed.
Members of Congress contest the appropriateness, motive and even the legality of the arguments made in the DOJ filing.
U.S. Courts: No Place for Diplomatic Pressure
The Congressional brief says the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act makes it clear that such lawsuits should be decided "by the courts" and not through diplomatic pressure. The U.S. lawmakers expressed concern that the arguments presented in the DOJ filing are largely in the interests of the Chinese regime and not in the interests of the United States.
Indeed, pressure on U.S. government officials has been heavy-handed since the lawsuit was first filed in October 2002. Included in the DOJ Amicus brief was information about frequent pressure from high-level Chinese officials to have the case against Jiang dismissed. According to Legislative Assistants on Capitol Hill, the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Yang Jiechi, has been personally calling U.S. Senators and Representatives in an effort to stifle support for the Congressional Amicus.
The Congressional brief also calls the DOJ’s approach to litigation against Jiang "troubling" given the "character" of the Chinese regime and Jiang Zemin’s "manner of reaching the head of it."
"Mr. Jiang did not come to power through any sort of popular electoral process," states the brief. "To the contrary, Mr. Jiang rose to power for his hard-line approach to crushing the democracy movement of 1989. Throughout his rule...reputable sources such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the State Department’s own Country Report on Human Rights have documented severe and systematic human rights abuses by Jiang’s government against his own people." (special report)
Foreign Policy Concerns Do Not Override Due Process, Head-of-State Non-applicable
The Congressional brief states that due process in U.S. courts should not be "obviated" due to foreign policy concerns.
The DOJ Amicus had cited concerns that the lawsuit against Jiang and similar suits would risk "provoking retaliatory lawsuits against U.S. officials." The Congressional brief, however, says this concern was already raised and dismissed by Congress and then by President Bush when he signed into law the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991.
"These potential dangers," said President Bush at the time of the signing, "do not concern the fundamental goals that this legislation seeks to advance. In this new era, in which countries throughout the world are turning to democratic institutions and the rule of law, we must maintain and strengthen our commitment to ensuring that human rights are respected everywhere."
The Congressional brief also contests that head-of-state immunity applies to Jiang.
"We see no policy or prudential reason to accept a suggestion of immunity by the executive branch with respect to a former head of a country that is a totalitarian regime," states the brief, "and that does not afford the opportunity for its citizens to petition its government for grievances or to make claims against the governments for wrongdoing."
"Indeed, international law makes clear that individuals that are responsible for gross violations of human rights may be subject to prosecution even if they were heads of state at the time that the offenses occurred," the brief states.
At the time the Congressional Amicus brief was filed with the court yesterday, 39 Members of Congress had signed their name to it. More signatures are expected throughout the week, volunteers say.
A decision by the Illinois district court judge on whether to allow the Amicus brief is expected this Thursday.
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NEWS - Jun. 11, 2003
Falun Dafa Information Center, www.faluninfo.net
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa (about), is a practice of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." It is a practice that was taught in private for thousands of years before being made public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong has roots in traditional Chinese culture, but it is distinct and separate from other practices such as the religions of Buddhism and Taoism. Since its introduction in 1992, it quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China, and is now practiced in over 50 countries.
With government estimates of as many as 100 million practicing Falun Gong, China's President Jiang Zemin outlawed the peaceful practice in July 1999 (report), fearful of anything touching the hearts and minds of more citizens than the Communist Party. Unable to crush the spirit of millions who had experienced improved health and positive life changes from Falun Gong, Jiang's regime has intensified its propaganda campaign to turn public opinion against the practice while quietly imprisoning, torturing and even murdering those who practice it.
The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of 724 deaths (reports / sources) since the persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999. Government officials inside China, however, report that the actual death toll is well over 1,600, while expert sources estimate that figure to be much higher. Hundreds of thousands have been detained, with more than 100,000 being sentenced to forced labor camps, typically without trial.
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