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Spain bill seeks to curb trials of foreign atrocities

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lawmakers in Spain are moving to stop the country's courts from probing certain atrocities allegedly committed overseas, officials said Tuesday, after a lawsuit against Chinese leaders raised tensions with Beijing.

Deputies of the conservative ruling Popular Party have tabled a bill to limit the Spanish courts' use of "universal jurisdiction", a doctrine that allows judges to try certain cases of human rights abuses committed in other countries.

In one such case, a Spanish judge in November issued an international arrest warrant for China's ex-president Jiang Zemin and others to answer a suit brought by activists alleging that Chinese forces committed genocide in Tibet.

That prompted a diplomatic protest from China, an important economic partner of Spain.

The proposed reform would allow only public prosecutors and victims to bring such a lawsuit to prevent campaign groups such as the Tibetan rights movement from doing so on their behalf.

It would also tighten the conditions for a Spanish judge to try such cases, notably allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity.

A parliamentary spokeswoman told AFP the lawmakers had tabled the bill but no date had yet been set for it to be debated.

Human rights group Amnesty International called the proposal "a step backwards in the fight against impunity for crimes under international law, for justice and human rights".

Spanish courts have investigated various cases under universal jurisdiction, notably over alleged atrocities during the dictatorships in Chile and Argentina.

The practice was reformed in 2009 to restrict such cases principally to ones involving Spanish victims or suspects present in Spain.

That change came after a case brought against Israel over bombings in Gaza in 2002, a lawsuit which raised diplomatic tensions.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140128/spain-bill-seeks-curb-trials-foreign-atrocities