Lawmakers to curb foreign human rights probes

20th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish lawmakers voted in favour of a resolution on the scope that the country's judges have to probe alleged human rights crimes in other countries.

Madrid – Spanish lawmakers voted Tuesday in favour of a resolution calling for limits be placed on the scope that the country's judges have to probe alleged human rights crimes in other countries.

Under the principle of "universal jurisdiction" which Spain has observed since 2005, Spanish judges have opened probes into genocide and human rights abuses in nations ranging from China to Israel, causing diplomatic headaches.

The resolution passed in parliament Tuesday with the support of lawmakers of the ruling Socialists and the conservative opposition calls for an "urgent reform" of the application of this principle to "limit and clarify its reach."

It recommends that the principle only apply to cases where the alleged perpetrators of a crime are in Spain or the victims are Spanish.

Spanish judges would also not be allowed to open a probe if the authorities in the country where the alleged events took place are already investigating it themselves under the proposed changes made in the resolution.

The resolution is only a recommendation but it could serve as the basis for a future reform of the principle of universal jurisdiction and its passage is a sign that there is a political consensus on the need for reform.

Spain is only one of a handful of countries that respects the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Spain's National Court, the country's top criminal court, currently has 13 cases open involving genocide or crimes against humanity affecting eight countries: China, Israel, the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda, Morocco and Germany.

Both China and Israel have recently voiced their displeasure at moves by Spanish judges to open probes into what they consider to be internal affairs.

Earlier this year the National Court, Spain's top criminal court, issued a request to question eight Chinese leaders as official suspects in a case of genocide in connection with a crackdown on unrest that erupted in Tibet in March 2008.

It also said it was going ahead with a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by top Israeli military figures over an air force bombing in Gaza in 2002 that killed 15 people despite objections from Spanish public prosecutors.

Under pressure from the United States and Israel, Brussels in 2003 altered a decade-old law of universal jurisdiction, which was similar to Spain's, to allow judges to open probes only in cases where there is a link to Belgium.

AFP / Expatica

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