[JURIST] An Argentine judge on Wednesday issued warrants [text, PDF, in Spanish] for four former Spanish officials accused of human rights violations during the Francisco Franco regime [BBC backgrounder]. Under international law [text], individuals accused of human rights abuses may be investigated and tried elsewhere if the country in which the violations occurred does not do so. Citing to international law and the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, Argentine federal judge Maria Romilda Servini de Cubria ordered the arrest of four former officials who currently live in Spain and demanded their extradition to Argentina. Under Argentine law, those crimes can be punished with eight to 25 years in prison. The Spanish government, however, adopted an amnesty law in 1977 [JURIST report] after Franco’s death barring investigation and prosecution of such crimes. In her arrest order, Servini named former Spanish officials—Jesus Munecas Aguilar, Celso Galvan Abascal, Jose Ignacio Giralte Gonzalez and Antonio Gonzalez Pacheco. All four men are accused of torturing political prisoners.
In September 2010 an appeals court in Argentina reopened [JURIST report] an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Spain during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco regime. The case was brought to federal court in April 2010 [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] by Argentinian relatives of Spanish citizens killed during the Franco regime. The Spanish Supreme Court charged National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon for abusing his power by opening an investigation [JURIST report] into the war crimes 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. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over Garzon’s trial, indicating that judges should not be criminally charged for investigations performed within the scope of their judicial duties.