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Reports confirm Spain considering limits on universal jurisdiction

[JURIST] Spain is considering legislation to limit the the scope of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] applied by the country's National Court [CJA backgrounder], according to Spanish media reports [CadenaSer report, in Spanish] Sunday. If adopted, the Reform of the Judiciary Act would limit the court's jurisdiction over war crimes and genocide charges to those cases that have a substantial link to the country or its citizens. It would require that the suspects be arrested in Spain, and that the crimes be committed against Spaniards or have some historical link to the country. The reports seem to confirm earlier statements [JURIST report] by Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni [official profile] that Spain was considering the changes following a decision by Spanish judge Fernando Andreu [JURIST news archive] to issue an order [text, PDF, in Spanish] opening an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in a 2002 Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip [El Pais report, in Spanish; JURIST report].

The investigation concerns the 2002 bombing of former Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh's home in Gaza City that killed 15 people [NYT report], including Shehadeh and his family. Israel has heavily criticized [Haaretz report] Article 23.4 [UN backgrounder, PDF] of the Judicial Power Organization Act, which allows Spanish courts to prosecute people outside of Spain for war crimes, even when no Spanish citizens are involved. Spanish courts have attempted to use the principle of universal jurisdiction in several other international cases, including allegations of war crimes and genocide in Rwanda, Tibet, Guatemala, and China [JURIST reports]. In 1998, the National Court of Spain invoked universal jurisdiction to issue an arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive].

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