UNIVERSAL JUSTICE

PP warns Couso case judge not to circumvent Spanish law

Baltasar Garzón says authors of universal justice reform could face criminal charges

The Popular Party (PP) government warned High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz on Tuesday to abide by the recent changes to the universal justice doctrine and drop investigations that are affected by recent reforms to the Judicial Powers Act.

In an interview with the Cope radio network, the PP’s number three, Carlos Floriano, who is the deputy secretary for organization and electoral issues, said Pedraz appeared to be “ideologically biased” and that it was “out of place” of him to circumvent Spanish code.

Floriano was referring to Pedraz’s decision to continue investigating the 2003 killing of Telecinco cameraman José Couso under the Geneva Convention clauses that empower the courts and government to protect their civilians during armed conflicts.

In a writ issued Monday, Pedraz said the convention trumped the changes that Congress made to the Spanish Judicial Powers Act last month, which now restricts judges from carrying out international investigations under the universal justice doctrine.

“Judges are obligated to apply and follow the law,” said Floriano.

Judges are obligated to apply and follow the law”

But former High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón doesn’t see it that way. At a conference, Garzón said Pedraz “did the right thing” in deciding not to follow “laws that are unconstitutional.”

The former High Court judge, who was suspended from the bench after a controversial Supreme Court trial, went further, saying that those who drafted the reforms could face criminal charges in the future because they passed a law that goes against Spain’s international obligations.

“It really strikes me that the deputies and the senators who voted in favor of this reform don’t know this,” he said.

Couso was killed in April 2003 when US troops allegedly opened fire on the hotel in Baghdad where he and other journalists were staying. The cameraman was taping the action from his hotel room’s balcony when he was struck.

Judge Pedraz has issued arrest warrants for three US servicemen, including the soldier who fired the shots, but the United States has refused to cooperate in the inquiry.

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