Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The End of the Spanish Inquisition?

The New York Times reports that Spain's parliament is considering legislation that would roll back a 1985 law that has provided jurisdiction for Spanish courts over a wide range of international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture. Spain's exercise of universal jurisdiction nearly brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to trial in Spain in 1998 before the British, who had arrested him in London on a Spanish arrest warrant, allowed the former Chilean dictator to return home to Chile for medical reasons.

The move by Spain's ruling Partido Popular to scale back the use of universal jurisdiction in the nation's courts (for the second time in recent years) comes just as Spain's National Court has issued international warrants for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and former prime minister Li Peng in a case involving allegations of genocide in Tibet. The case was filed in 2006 by two human rights organizations and a Buddhist monk who is a Spanish national. Former president Hu Jintao was also named in the complaint, but no warrant has been issued yet for his arrest.

China has responded angrily, touching off a debate in Spain regarding the competing imperatives of trade and human rights.

(Thanks to Michael Reid for flagging the story and to Thomas Doyle for the title of this post.)