Along with international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), national courts play an essential role within the international justice system. Through the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, the courts of any country can and should investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes, even if they have been committed outside their territory, regardless of who the perpetrators or victims may be. In fact, due to the limitations and lack of resources of institutions such as the International Criminal Court, Universal Jurisdiction is not only an important mechanism, but absolutely essential in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes. Thus both victims’ rights as well as of those of the entire international community can be protected.
For decades Spain has pioneered this concept. However, political pressure exerted by governments of countries involved in cases under investigation by Spanish courts led to a legal reform in 2009, restricting the application of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction. This first step led to the 2014 adoption of a reform that seeks to curtail the jurisdiction of Spanish judges in the investigation and prosecution of international crimes.
For more information on Universal Jurisdiction cases in Spain, see Litigation