[JURIST] A federal judge in Argentina on Friday requested that Spain arrest and extradite 20 former Spanish officials suspected of human rights violations during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder]. The judge, Maria Servini de Cubria, said she is invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction for human rights issues against Spaniards and cited to international law [text]. Because of an amnesty enacted in Spain when the country returned to democracy, Franco-era officials cannot be prosecuted in Spain. Thus, Spaniards claiming they were victims of torture are seeking justice beyond the country’s borders. They filed a lawsuit in Buenos Aries in 2010. Servini de Cubria issued warrants [JURIST report] for four former officials in September 2013.
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.