A Spark of Hope for International Justice?

Press release
en es

At a conference organised at the Spanish lower house (Congreso de los Diputados) by FIDH member organisation the Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos de Espana (APDHE) on Tuesday 4 March, the Socialist Parliamentary Group announced that it will appeal to the Constitutional Court against the proposed reform to the Spanish law on universal jurisdiction.

The controversial reform – fast-tracked by Spain’s Popular Parliamentary Group following diplomatic frictions between the government and China over a warrant issued by Spanish Supreme Court Audiencia Nacional against five Communist Party leaders in the context of an investigation over genocide in Tibet - has sparked a debate at the international level and drawn severe criticism by NGOs, lawyers and academics.

In a statement published last month, FIDH and other 121 NGOs from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas strongly condemned the reform which would close the door of Spanish courts to victims of grave human rights violations and offer the prospect of impunity to perpetrators. [1]

’By further limiting the possibility for judges to investigate and prosecute serious crimes under international law, the reform would substantially curtail the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, which flows from a number of international treaties and conventions to which Spain is a party, and simply void it of its content’ declared Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President. “This would be in breach of Spain’s obligations under international and international human rights law and deny justice to victims of heinous crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, while allowing their persecutors to go unpunished’.

In addition to clearly violating international law, the proposal poses problems with regard to its compatibility with the Spanish Constitution in both content and procedure. ’The way the government has tried to push the reform through, by means of an accelerated procedure which detracts the bill from public debate and the scrutiny of consultative bodies as the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (General Council of the Judiciary) and the Consejo de Estado (Council of State), raises concerns regarding such compatibility’ argued APDHE President Jacinto Lara. The retroactive nature of the reform -meaning that the new law will apply to proceedings that will be already ongoing at its entry into force- also raises concerns as regards compliance with the principle requiring that no measures can be applied retroactively to ongoing proceedings which restrict the rights of the victims involved.

The decision by the Socialist Parliamentary Group to file a recourse for unconstitutionality against the proposed bill, which follows a great international mobilisation against the reform, is a welcome step and a last hope for victims, lawyers and all those who support the cause of justice that the law will eventually be discarded’ said FIDH President Karim Lahijdi in reaction to the announcement made by Socialist Parliamentary Group’s spokesperson Soraya Rodriguez. ’We trust that the Constitutional Court will thoroughly scrutinise the law and quash any attempt to bypass Spain’s constitutional and international law obligations, by ensuring that no reform is passed which would be in breach of such obligations’.

View online : You can read the press release (in Spanish) issued by our member the APDHE after the conference at this link: ¿Quién teme la jurisdicción universal?
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