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The Principle of Universal Criminal Jurisdiction in Spanish Practice (2003–2009)

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ABSTRACTSince the middle of the nineties, there has been developed a set of legal actions before Spanish courts under the PUCJ, with the aim of pursuing the impunity of the perpetrators of serious violations of human rights committed within third States. Both the TS and the TC have delivered judgements on the scope and content of this principle, in accordance with the international obligations assumed by Spain and the domestic legislation regulating the jurisdiction of Spanish courts (LOPJ of 1985). Due to the very different views supported in this respect by the TS and the TC respectively, the Spanish Parliament, at the end of 2009, managed to reform the LOPJ by a wide parliamentary majority, with the declared objective of limiting the PUCJ application. As it was made clear in the parliamentary debates, this new regulation aims to prevent the start, before Spanish courts under the PUCJ, of those criminal proceedings for which judgement will not be delivered. In this sense, the Spanish lawmaker corrects the absolute or unconditioned conception of the PUCJ maintained by the TC, and establishes three “connection points” which may justify the competence of Spanish courts, thereby supporting TS’ position. In fact, from now on, Spanish courts will be competent to exercise the PUCJ should one of these three suppositions occur: the presence of the perpetrator in Spain, the Spanish nationality of the victim, or the existence of any “relevant connection link” with Spain. Furthermore, the competence of Spanish courts is subordinated to the observance of the principle of subsidiarity, in relation to the competence of the domestic courts within other States or of other international courts.

Affiliations: 1: University of


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