UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION

Universal justice bill will now allow narco boat seizures

Reform's wording limits law enforcement from boarding vessels in international waters

Trying to beat a deadline, the Interior Ministry has moved quickly to fine-tune a controversial reform to curtail the number of international investigations Spanish judges can carry out under the universal jurisdiction doctrine. The original wording of the bill prohibited or greatly limited Spanish law enforcement from boarding a vessel carrying drugs in international waters.

But now, the reformed 1985 Judicial Powers Act will allow Spanish authorities to seize ships outside jurisdictional waters. Interior Ministry officials were trying to change the text before Thursday, when the Popular Party (PP)-backed Congress is expected to pass it.

The bill has come under fire because it will cause a number of human rights cases now before the High Court to be shelved as the government tries to smooth over relations with foreign governments, such as China, who have been irked by the inquiries.

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