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Argentina prosecutor recommends dropping Spanish war crimes cases

An Argentinian state prosecutor recommended Friday that all lawsuits arising out of crimes committed under the Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] regime be dismissed because they are being dealt with in Spain. Prosecutor Federico Delgado explained [AFP report] that while any state may prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] applies only if the state with primary jurisdiction to prosecute a crime fails to do so. Last month, Argentine relatives of Spanish citizens killed during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder] asked an Argentine federal court [JURIST report] to open a judicial investigation into human rights violations committed during the early years of the Franco regime. The complainants argued that universal jurisdiction allowed Argentina's courts to hear these cases.

The request for a judicial probe in Argentina was a reaction to the Spanish Supreme Court's decision to charge [JURIST report] National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] with abuse of power for his investigation of war crimes during the Franco regime. The indictment has sparked international outrage [NYT op-ed] and massive protests [JURIST report] in Spain. Last month, Garzon appealed the indictment [JURIST report], alleging that the it is politically motivated, compromises judicial independence, and seeks to impose a specific interpretation of a 1977 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed under Franco.

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