Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spain’s crusading judges may have their wings clipped after legislators called on the government to curb the power of Spanish courts to pursue cases against people accused of crimes against humanity in other countries.

The lawmakers approved a non-binding proposal late Tuesday that urges the government to reform the law of universal jurisdiction, which enables prosecutors to investigate alleged human rights crimes regardless of where they are committed or where the defendants live.

The proposal, originally presented by the opposition Popular Party, was approved with 339 of 350 votes, a spokeswoman for the Parliament said.

Spanish judges have invoked universal jurisdiction in recent years to pursue cases against alleged human rights violators in several countries, including Tibet, Rwanda, Israel and the United States. Under the proposed reform, courts would only be allowed to pursue cases if the victims were Spanish or the alleged perpetrators were on Spanish territory.

Recent efforts to investigate former United States officials and former and current Israeli officials caused some diplomatic embarrassment and prompted calls within the government for a change in the law. Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos reportedly told Israeli officials he would seek to have the law changed — a comment the government later denied.

Here's a list of the ongoing investigations by the crusading judges.