UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION

Drug trafficking and child abuse cases may be hit by universal justice curb

PP proposal to limit legal doctrine to national ambit will lead to widespread impunity, experts say

The government's planned judiciary reform, which will introduce restrictions to the universal jurisdiction doctrine, may affect scores of cases involving child abuse, drug trafficking and gender violence, according to experts. Presented last month, the reform is aimed at limiting the grounds on which the High Court will be able to carry out inquiries based on universal justice. Presented by the Popular Party parliamentary bench, the bill states that cases could only be opened if the alleged offender is a Spaniard, resides in Spain or if the crimes were committed in this country.

The move is seen as an attempt to appease China. Beijing had lodged various diplomatic complaints with Spain after the High Court last November issued an arrest warrant for former President Jiang Zemin, 87, and other Chinese Communist Party members, over genocide allegations in Tibet. The investigation derives from a 2006 lawsuit brought by Tibet human rights organizations and Sherpa Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish national.

Currently, the High Court can open an inquiry if the victims are Spanish or there is a relevant connection to Spain.

But legal experts believe the proposed restrictions could also affect victims of abuse cases in other countries where the abuser has another nationality. In drug trafficking cases, investigations will be limited to instances in which narcotics are smuggled to Spain or if it occurred on a Spanish-flagged ship or aircraft, said one prosecutor.

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