[JURIST] A Spanish National Court [CJA backgrounder] judge on Monday ordered [text, PDF, in Spanish] investigations to continue into alleged crimes against humanity committed in a 2002 Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip [El Pais report, in Spanish; JURIST report], despite heavy criticism from Spanish politicians and prosecutors. Last month, Spanish prosecutors urged the court to decline the case [El Pais report, in Spanish] while an Israeli investigation remained open. The Israeli Office of the State Attorney also submitted a letter [text, PDF] to the Spanish court insisting that the Israeli judiciary was equipped to handle the inquiry and any resulting prosecutions. Judge Fernando Andreu [JURIST news archive] rejected the arguments, characterizing the Israeli inquiry as administrative rather than legal and ordering the Spanish case to continue. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official profile] decried the order and said he would appeal to the Spanish government [Haaretz report] to block the proceedings. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [advocacy website], which initiated the complaint in the Spanish court, called [press release] the order "a major step towards achieving justice for victims."
The investigation implicates former Israeli defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer [official profile] and six soldiers under his command in the 2002 bombing of former Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh's home in Gaza City that killed 15 people [NYT report], including Shehadeh and his family, and resulted in approximately 140 injuries. Israel has heavily criticized [Haaretz report] Article 23.4 [UN backgrounder, PDF] of the Judicial Power Organization Act, which allows Spanish courts to prosecute people outside of Spain for war crimes even when no Spanish citizens are involved. Spain is currently considering legislation [JURIST report] to limit the the scope of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] applied by the National Court, which would restrict the court's jurisdiction over war crimes and genocide charges to those cases that have a substantial link to the country or its citizens by requiring an arrest in Spain and that the crimes be committed against Spaniards or have some historical link to the country. No date has been set for parliamentary consideration of the bill.