Spanish lawmakers vote to curb judicial probes abroad

26th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain's lower house of parliament voted Thursday to limit the scope enjoyed by Spanish judges to investigate alleged human rights abuses in other countries.

Madrid--The deputies voted by a large majority to reform the principle of "universal jurisdiction," which Spain has observed since 2005.

It currently allows Spanish judges to open probes into genocide and human rights abuses wherever they occur, and has been used recently to open cases against officials in Israel and the United States.

But it has also caused diplomatic headaches for the government.

Once the measure is passed by the Senate, Spanish judges will only be allowed to probe such cases if they involve Spanish victims or if the suspects are on Spanish soil.

Human rights groups have condemned the government's move.

Amnesty International has said it would "remove from Spanish justice what has made it most prestigious," while Human Rights Watch said it will send the message that there is a "double standard" in the application of universal justice.

Spain's National Court, the country's top criminal court, is currently probing allegations of torture at the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as an Israeli air force bombing in Gaza in 2002 that killed 15 people.

It has opened 11 other cases involving allegations of genocide or crimes against humanity affecting six other countries: China, Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda, Morocco and Germany.

Under pressure from the United States and Israel, Belgium 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.


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