Amnesty International was represented in this case by François Larocque and Owen M. Rees.
WHAT IS THIS CASE ABOUT?
The plaintiffs who brought this case are practitioners of a spiritual practice called Falun Gong in China. For over a decade, the Falun Gong have been subjected to a government crackdown, including sweeping detention, unfair trials leading to long sentences, enforced disappearances, and deaths in detention following torture.
The plaintiffs in this case all were detained and tortured by Chinese authorities as part of this crackdown. Following their release, they moved to Canada in order to escape further persecution in China. One of the plaintiffs was a Canadian citizen at the time of his torture. In 2004, they brought a joint civil action before the Ontario Superior Court of justice against then Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and other officials of the Chinese Communist Party for ordering their torture.
The Chinese authorities did not defend the action and therefore were deemed by the court to have admitted all the allegations of fact made against them. The issue the court had to decide was whether Canada’s State Immunity Act applied so as to immunize Chinese officials from civil actions against them in Canada.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S INTERVENTION
Amnesty International co-intervened in this case with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) to argue that under international human rights law – in particular, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – torture survivors have a right to obtain fair and adequate compensation for their ill-treatment. Therefore, the State Immunity Act cannot be relied on to immunize foreign authorities for serious human rights violations such as torture.
STATUS OF THE CASE
The court heard arguments on 29 March 2010, but never issued a judgment about the immunity issue because the plaintiffs were unable to continue with the case.
Plaintiffs’ Statement of Claim in the Zhang case
Plaintiffs’ Submissions to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the Zhang case
Amnesty International and CCIJ’s Submissions to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the Zhang case