Spain congress urges limits to universal jurisdiction claims

[JURIST] Spain's Congress of Deputies [official website], the lower house of the Spanish parliament, passed a non-binding resolution Tuesday aimed at limiting the exercise of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] over foreign nations in Spanish courts to those cases in which there is no current domestic investigation underway and where there exists a clear connection to Spain. The requisite connection to the country would include cases against Spanish citizens or people physically in Spain or cases involving Spanish victims. The call for such a limit reflects pressure from some foreign governments [Reuters report] including Israel and the US whose officials have been targeted by Spanish investigations. The resolution was originally proposed by the opposition Popular Party (PP) but is also supported by the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) [party websites, in Spanish] and is likely to result in legislation [NYT report]. Human rights groups have spoken out against the resolution [AFP report], maintaining that this will only result in more impunity.

Universal jurisdiction gives Spain jurisdiction over foreign torture, terrorism and war crimes if the case is not subject to the legal system of the country involved. Earlier this month, a Spanish judge said that he would ask the US [JURIST report] about possible plans to prosecute six former US government lawyers for their alleged contributions to acts of torture at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] before deciding whether to proceed with his own investigation. The judge had taken the case over [JURIST report] from Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who opened an additional investigation into alleged torture in Guantanamo based on complaints by four former detainees. Another Spanish judge recently ordered investigations to continue [JURIST report] into alleged crimes against humanity committed in a 2002 Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip that implicates former Israeli defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer [official profile] and six soldiers. Israel responded [text, PDF] to the Spanish investigation, claiming that it was fully capable of conducting its own investigations into alleged violations of national and international law. The Spanish courts previously invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction to indict former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive].



 

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