An appeals court in Argentina Friday reopened an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Spain during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and the subsequent regime of General Francisco Franco [BBC profile]. The Spanish government adopted an amnesty law in 1977 [JURIST report] after Franco's death barring investigation and prosecution of such crimes. Under "universal jurisdiction" doctrine the Second Chamber of Argentina's House of Federal Criminal Appeals plans to send a "diplomatic request" [BBC report] to the Spanish government to ascertain what action the country has taken in the matter. Members of human rights organizations have applauded the appeals court's decision to look further into the war crimes as a step toward "universal justice" [EFE report, in Spanish]. The case was brought to federal court in April [JURIST report; JURIST comment] by Argentinian relatives of Spanish citizens killed during the Franco regime.
The appeals court decision to move forward with the investigation conflicts with a recommendation [JURIST report] made in May by Argentinian state prosecutor Federico Delgado to dismiss all Argentinian lawsuits arising out of alleged Spanish war crimes because they were being dealt with in Spain. In May, the Spanish General Counsel of the Judiciary (CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] voted unanimously to suspend [JURIST report] National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for abusing his power by opening an investigation into the war crimes. The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] charged Garzon with abuse of power based on his 2008 order requiring the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain. Garzon had claimed the indictment was politically-motivated, compromised judicial independence, and sought to impose a specific interpretation of the 1977 amnesty law.