1. I am Geoffrey Nice Chairman of the CHINATRIBUNAL
2. My six colleagues and I will each introduce ourselves at the end of these introductory remarks
3. This tribunal has been established by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC). ETAC is an Australian charity comprised of a coalition of lawyers, academics, ethicists, medical professionals, researchers and human rights advocates dedicated to ending forced organ harvesting in China.
4. ETAC’s full programme and objectives can be seen on its website.
5. There have been many reports into China’s transplant practices. None of them explores specifically whether those practices have involved international criminal offences although it is often asserted that they may have done.
6. This tribunal will investigate if criminal offences have been committed by state or state-approved bodies / organisations or by individuals in China that or who mayhave engaged in forced organ harvesting.
7. The Tribunal – a ‘People’s Tribunal’ – was formed by ETAC but is completely independent of it.
8. The Tribunal will become a member of a growing family of informal, or people’s, tribunals, each dealing with allegations of extremely serious crimes by states or state supported bodies that formal national and international bodies have failed to deal with.
9. The first noted people’s tribunal was Lord Russell’s into Vietnam and there have been others since, such as the ‘Comfort Women Tribunal’, The ‘Iran Tribunal’, the ‘Indonesia Tribunal’, each building on the experience of earlier tribunals and each having individual approaches to rule of law and procedural issues generated by the particular allegations made.
FACTORS SPECIFIC TO THIS TRIBUNAL – PROCEDURE
10. This Tribunal, it should be remembered, will be dealing with allegations where, by the very nature of what is alleged, there can be no ‘in-person’ evidence from victims, all of whom will be dead if the allegations are correct.
11. For this tribunal it was decided not to have a panel of people already knowledgeable about, or particularly concerned about, allegations of forced organ harvesting that have already been made in various reports. Nor is it a panel of lawyers making legal decisions to apply to facts the Tribunal may find. Rather it is composed of seven people – four lawyers from four different countries with experience of different human rights fields of activity, a transplant surgeon, a businessman and an historian knowledgeable of China – who will act collectively in deciding what is proved to have happened and what are the consequences in law for the findings made. The expertise of all panel members will be deployed in the panel’s questioning of witnesses where appropriate and in discussion among themselves where that may be necessary for technical legal, medical, cultural or other matters to be fully understood; but all panel members act as equals who in no way profess to being expert in the final questions facing the Tribunal. Effectively the panel will resemble, at least to a degree, a jury in criminal trials in those countries that have a jury system.
12. The procedure will not be adversarial. China is not appearing as a party and there will be no advocate to make allegations for ETAC. Instead ETAC has presented the Tribunal with written material for reading before these hearings and has largely been responsible for identifying the 30 or so witnesses who will be appearing over the next three days. The full list of pre-read material is published on the website and witnesses will be identified as they come to give evidence (with one witness probably giving evidence with the benefit of anonymity for security reasons). Subject to individual consents, witnesses’ written witness statements will also be published on the website after their evidence has been given.
13. Counsel to the Tribunal, or one of his team, will summarise the evidence in the witness’s written statement and the witness will be asked to give evidence of central parts of her / his evidence before being asked further questions by Tribunal members.
14. During the three days of witness testimony it may be that the tribunal will identify further documents it considers it should have and read or indeed further witnesses from whom it would like to hear. There has also been a ‘call for evidence’ possibility on the CHINATRIBUNAL website whereby members of the public may contribute statements or, indeed, identify further evidence that the Tribunal may wish to consider.
15. In consequence it is probable that there will have to be a further hearing or hearings, by one means or another, to complete the reception by the Tribunal of evidence, including evidence that the Tribunal itself will have identified as possibly valuable. In this way, and to this extent, the Tribunal will have an investigatory function during and following these three days of hearing witnesses.
16. There will be free assessment of evidence and no rules such as requirements of corroboration. But the Tribunal will take note of various approaches made to evidence around the world and set out how it has approached evidence of all kinds in its judgment.
17. Consistent with this general approach, issues of law will be dealt with as follows: Legal experts from around the world have been approached to give legal advice on certain possible factual conclusions that the Tribunal may reach but entirely without prejudice to the factual finding the Tribunal will actually make. These experts have been asked to express their opinions in short form, similar to directions of law that might guide a jury or panel of judges deciding a criminal case in a court. If the legal advice from different experts coincides then there may be no need to hear from these experts in person. Otherwise, the Tribunal will hear from the experts and will identify, following discussion by the Tribunal members, the applicable law.
18. It is hoped that any hearing(s) with expert lawyers, just as with any hearings of witnesses identified as above by the Tribunal on other factual issues, can be in public even if the hearings are conducted over the internet. As a minimum, video recordings of evidence from additional factual witnesses and discussions (if any) with expert lawyers will be posted on the Tribunal’s website. Notification of the timetable of all subsequent procedures of the Tribunal following these three days of evidence will be posted on the website with explanation of how they may, if technically possible, be viewed in real time.
‘EXCULPATORY MATERIAL’ – MATERIAL SHOWING NO CRIMINALITY
19. ETAC and the Tribunal are both aware of the need to have access to individuals who, or material that, suggest nothing criminal has been involved in China’s organ transplant practices and the Panel would be grateful for notification of any such individuals or material that it may not yet have had drawn to its attention. Written material to this effect is included in the pre- read material. Individuals who are known in the past to have given evidence to this effect have been written to inviting their participation as witnesses; none has been available to assist thus far.
INVITATIONS TO THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
20. Written invitations to attend these hearings have been
sent on two occasions to the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the UK. Those invitation letters also invited consideration to be given by China to participating in the proceedings in some other way following discussion with Mr Hamid Sabi, Counsel to the Inquiry. No reply has been received to either letter. Mr Sabi will each day ask publicly whether anyone in this room represents the P R C.
21. Although this is not in any sense a criminal trial of an individual, the Tribunal will apply the presumption of innocence, will allow no presumptions or assumptions of any kind to play parts in its deliberations, will make its decisions on the basis of evidence considered by all of its members, nothing else. Any finding without qualification that commission of crimes has been proved proved will be based on the Tribunal members being satisfied of such a finding beyond reasonable doubt. Other findings, one way or another at lesser levels of certainty will be explained in the judgment.
22. ETAC has funded hire of this hearing room, audio visual services and interpreters. These last two have, it is understood been provided at favourable rates, for which the Tribunal is appreciative. ETAC has also funded necessary travel of those Tribunal members coming from overseas and their hotel accommodation.
23. Tribunal members, Counsel to the Inquiry Mr Sabi and all his team working here today and who have prepared material for use at these hearings and who will assist in summarising evidence for the final judgment of the Tribunal have acted at all times pro bono publico. None has any interest, financial or otherwise, in any outcome of the work of the Tribunal or in the final Judgment of the Tribunal.
24. I, Geoffrey Nice, am an English barrister and formerly part time judge in England who prosecuted War Crimes cases for the UN between 1998 and 2006 and have worked in associated areas ever since including in in two earlier informal / people’s tribunals.
Our Tribunal Members are (introductions made – see https://chinatribunal.com/who-we-are/)
25. Mr Sabi will introduce himself, ask about anyone appearing on behalf of the PRC, set out today’s timetable and with his team have the witnesses provided by ETAC give their evidence.
8 December 2018 London