On May the 27th 2004, the U.S. Federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will be the site for the court debate regarding the lawsuit against Jiang Zemin. This lawsuit against the head perpetrator of the persecution of Falun Gong and former Chinese president Jiang Zemin is receiving more and more attention from the international community and the general public.
Minghui correspondent Gu Anru interviewed Mr. Yang Sen, a representative for the U.S. Falun Dafa Association, Ms. Han Shuhui, a representative for the plaintiff attorney's team and Mr. He Haiying, a representative for the Global Coalition to Bring Jiang to Justice.
Correspondent: At the beginning, people had doubts about this lawsuit. Why? Over a year ago, when answering reporter's question, the plaintiffs' attorney Terri Marsh had said, "The goal of this lawsuit is to stop Jiang Zemin group's persecution of Falun Gong, to remind the world through the U.S. legal system that the crime of genocide is taking place in China, and at the same time encourage more people to help end this persecution through non-legal channels." [Paraphrase]
With Falun Gong practitioners' efforts in truth clarification over the past year, people's doubts have been gradually replaced by concerns and attention. They want to know the nature and progress of the lawsuit, the court discussions as well as the impact of this lawsuit. Should we first introduce the background information pertaining to this lawsuit?
Yang Sen: Of course. In October 2002, Jiang paid a private visit to Chicago, U.S.A. On October 18, Falun Gong practitioners filed a class-action lawsuit with U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, charging Jiang with torture, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Around 4:00 p.m. on October 22, the complaint was filed under seal and the defendants were served by alternate service by security agents designated by the courts as appropriate substitutes for personal service. In the subsequent several months, Court Summons were mailed via registered letter several times to Zhongnanhai. Jiang Zemin's office had repeatedly given their signatures and received the legal documents.
On January 13 2003, the court held the first meeting for the lawsuit. The attorney and the judge determined the time for the next hearing in this case.
Around 2 p.m. April 14, 2003, plaintiffs' attorney Terri Marsh responded to the issues posed at the preliminary hearing on January 13, 2003, in order to assure that the statements conform to standards required by the state of Illinois. Because Jiang stepped down as president of China on March 15, 2003, he was no longer a head of state by the time the filing of documents with court was officially completed.
On June 10 2003, a brief co-signed by 39 members from the U.S. Congress as a friend of the court, known as amicus curiae, was submitted to the Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois to express the congressional members' support for the lawsuit against Jiang. Regarding whether the defendant enjoys immunity as the head of a country, the documents stressed that the basic principle to establish the immunity for Heads of State is that such an immunity appeal should not again be solved through diplomatic approach under the strong political pressure, instead, it should be solved by the court based on the legal standards.
On September 12 2003, based on a technicality, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the lawsuit, citing immunity for heads of state. At that time, Jiang was no longer a head of state. The judge, though, acknowledged some of the plaintiff's arguments as being valid.
Correspondent: According to my understanding, the judge's dismissal is only a technicality and does not exonerate the defendant, right?
Yang Sen: That is correct. Regarding the conclusion from the court, on September 15, 2003, the plaintiffs' lawyer Terri Marsh and a group of Falun Gong practitioners held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., stating that they are planning to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the District Court and an Appeal with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On January 19 2004, plaintiffs filed an appellate brief with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court, arguing that anyone, whether they are a current or former head of state, must abide by the rule of law and cannot be above the law. The brief pointed out that if the plaintiffs' complaints are verified; the defendant violated the basic principles of international law and committed genocide and torture. In addition, the brief also pointed out that according to the spirit of the genocide and torture treaties that the U.S. has signed, Jiang Zemin, who left the position of the Chinese President on March 15, 2003, no longer enjoys any immunity.
On March 5, 2004, in consideration of the complicated mutual interests between countries, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief to reply to the brief filed by plaintiffs' attorney on January 19, and presented arguments about the immunity and the process of service.
On March 19, 2004, the plaintiffs filed a reply to the Department of Justice brief. In addition to the points raised in the January 19 brief, a summary about the validity of the legal process was also added.
Until now, the collection of materials have been finished by both sides, on May 27, 2004, oral arguments will be heard in the 7th Circuit Court.
Correspondent: I heard the May 27 oral argument is an opportunity to state and defend our cause after the legal procedure has begun. What do you think will happen during the court arguments?
Attorney Han Shuhui: This lawsuit is very important in U.S. legal circles. It is also very important in the international field of law, for lawyers and human rights. It has special historic significance. On May 20, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin published a headline report on the pending court arguments, which shows the interest this case has generated.
It is predicted that three judges, the plaintiffs' lawyer and a lawyer representing the U.S. Department of Justice will be present. The plaintiffs' lawyer will state the legal cause and procedural issues; the U.S. Department of Justice lawyer will give his opinions on the legal procedures. During the approximately 40-minute argument, the three judges will ask questions of lawyers of both sides, who will respond to these specific questions.
Correspondent: What issues will this argument bring up?
Han Shuhui: Since the lawsuit has officially begun, this court argument will mainly revolve around the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois' dismissal of the lawsuit due to immunity for heads of state; that part of the discussion will be an important part of the arguments.
The plaintiffs' lawyer will point out statutes pertaining to related international treaties and U.S. laws, that first, immunity for a head of state is temporary, limited and restricted in its range of application, and immunity does not mean the perpetrator will never receive just punishment. The U.S. government has signed a torture pact and genocide pact, both of which state the two crimes --torture and genocide - ought to be punished. If a head of state commits genocide and torture during his term in office, he must take full responsibility for his crimes after he steps down. Therefore, since Jiang left the position of Chinese president on March 15, 2003, he no longer qualifies for immunity granted to heads of state.
Second, Jiang single-handedly directed the persecution against Falun Gong and her practitioners and manipulated the whole government with his power. All that he did during the persecution was a violation of international laws and a violation of Chinese laws. They were Jiang's personal actions and decisions, which do not represent the government. Therefore Jiang is not protected by immunity for non-official and non-governmental acts.
Third, to the U.S. courts, Jiang does not represent a head of state, nor a U.S. president. He will not enjoy privileges not even granted to former U.S. presidents, who were sued, nor is he allowed to be placed above the law.
Correspondent: In your opinion, what is the future of this lawsuit?
Han Shuhui: It will get better and better. The beginning is the most difficult. The lawsuit has already begun, what else can be so difficult? Up until now, the procedures themselves have produced a great reaction in certain segments of U.S. society as well as in the legal community. It has provoked public concern and awakened a sense of justice in many people. People in all corners of the world will be able to gain a better understanding of the persecution of Falun Gong through this lawsuit, and of the significance of this lawsuit, how it affects mankind. We will have more people learn of the truth as we move forward, and more people will take the side of justice. Will Jiang then be able to escape justice?
Yang Sen: In fact, the basic principles of law are Truth, Fairness and Justice. In other words, good people should be protected and bad people should be punished. These principles are universally accepted worldwide. Lawsuits are based on upholding justice and morals. People have the right to escape slavery, torture, illegal detention and genocide.
Freedom of belief is one of the founding principles of the U.S. The early immigrants arrived in what is now America in order to escape religious persecution, poverty and conscription. Some regional courts in the U.S. have already reached verdicts favourable for Falun Gong.
For instance, San Francisco Judge Edward M. Chen recently denied sovereign immunity for Liu Qi, former Beijing Mayor and current Beijing Party Secretary, and Xia Deren, Deputy Governor of Liaoning Province. With his verdict he affirmed that government officials could still receive punishment regardless of their rank if they have committed crimes against humanity. In a report Judge Chen submitted to the court, both Chinese officials were found guilty of overseeing the torture of Falun Gong practitioners.
Correspondent: After the lawsuit was filed in Chicago, other lawsuits against Jiang were filed in several other parts of the world, which may establish that Falun Gong is widely known around the world.
Yang Sen: In the past five years there have been 25 lawsuits against Jiang and his followers, who were charged with torture, crimes against humanity, genocide, and other crimes. Jiang himself was served with lawsuits in the U.S., Germany, Belgium, Spain, Korea, and Taiwan.
Since this persecution in China has lasted nearly five years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 1,000 people and the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people, such a lawsuit is crucial.
He Haiying: That's right! It is highly significant that this lawsuit is it is the first such case of atrocities filed by victims who are still suffering torture and genocide right now!
Jiang went way out of line against millions of good, innocent people who believe in Truth- Compassion-Tolerance. He used the entire government machinery to involve the whole nation in this persecution. He used policies to force every single Chinese citizen to declare their stand on the persecution, which is historically unprecedented. As globalisation spreads, the persecution of the conscience based on Truth-Compassion-Tolerance is impacting the whole human race. Jiang forces people to give up their basic morals as human, which has a detrimental effect on the human race. By filing a lawsuit against a human's public enemy, Falun Gong is accomplishing a magnificent feat that is benefiting the whole human race!
Falun Gong practitioners' courage and conscience have inspired the forces of kindness and justice around the world. In September 2003, groups and individuals who believe in justice and care about China's future and those who have suffered persecution under Jiang's dictatorship have organised the Global Coalition for Bringing Jiang to Justice. The coalition's mission is to engage all righteous people, expose every crime committed by Jiang, and bring Jiang to a court of law, as well as to the court of human morals and justice. The Coalition has held gatherings and discussion forums in over 20 major cities around the world, condemning Jiang's crimes against China and the Chinese people.
Up until now, nearly 100 well-known human rights groups inside and outside of China as well as hundreds of individuals have joined the Coalition. On May 14, 2004, the Coalition announced a resolution, stating, "the Global Coalition To Bring Jiang Zemin To Justice will fully support valid lawsuits or legal complaints filed against Jiang Zemin, the "610 Office" and their accomplices, in any region or country around the world; that the Coalition will dedicate itself to help the filing and hearing of such cases, and will assist in collecting and organising the criminal evidence as needed."
On May 19, the Coalition formulated a public appeal letter asking to "abolish Jiang's immunity as a head of state." Within three days, many people had signed their names in support.
Yang Sen: Obviously, the publicity of this lawsuit against Jiang has taken on great significance and great impact and has far exceeded the importance of the actual lawsuit itself. It is one step in Falun Gong practitioners' peaceful protest, and it records the noble victory of compassion over atrocity, justice over evil, under the guidance of Truth- Compassion-Tolerance. The conscience, courage and dignity Falun Gong practitioners display will remain as magnificent examples in human history. The final grand trial will come.
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