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UNIVERSAL JUSTICE

Ruling Popular Party alone in bid to eliminate universal justice

None of the opposition parties in Congress will support proposed reform

The ruling Popular Party (PP) will be all alone in its attempt to severely restrict the application of universal justice in Spain. All other political groups in Congress oppose this initiative, and will make that clear during Tuesday’s plenary session.

The conservative government has made no secret of the fact that it wants to curtail this legal principle, which allows Spanish courts to try foreigners for crimes committed abroad, in order to end the diplomatic conflicts it has created. The Mariano Rajoy administration is especially keen to appease Chinese authorities after the Spanish High Court began investigating top Communist Party officials, including former president Jiang Zemin, for crimes against humanity in Tibet. This past Monday, the court issued an international arrest warrant against Zemin.

Thus the government’s rush to eliminate a concept that “only brings conflict,” in the words of PP spokesman Alfonso Alonso.

Instead of drafting a bill that would have to get the green light from the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the Fiscal Council and the State Council, the Justice Ministry is instead pushing for fast-track reform that would bypass all these controls, and go into effect within a month.

The opposition notes that the PP’s initiative is so restrictive that it will also limit law enforcement’s ability to seize drug shipments at high seas, fight female genital mutilation and pursue pedophiles. It will also lead to the dismissal of the investigation into the April 2003 death of a Spanish cameraman in Iraq, José Couso, after US soldiers fired at the hotel he was staying in.

The plans have also been criticized by a significant number of judges, some of whom are considering raising issues of unconstitutionality. International organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have issued statements reminding Spain of the agreements it has signed with other countries, and lamenting what they see as political interference with the independence of the justice system.