The existing legislation allowed judges like Baltasar Garzon to prosecute egregious crimes committed in other countries even if there was no link to Spain. The practice had irked some countries targeted in probes by Spanish magistrates, particularly Israel and China, and led to accusations that Spain was behaving like a global policeman.
Under the reformed version of the law, such cases can now be undertaken only if there were Spanish victims of the crime or the alleged perpetrators are in Spain.
The bill was passed by the lower chamber, called the Congress of Deputies, in June and then went to the Senate, which made minor amendments. The lower chamber gave the bill definitive approval on Thursday. Of 327 lawmakers present in the 350-member chamber, the vote was 319 in favor, five against and three abstentions.
Spain's ruling Socialists and opposition conservatives laid the groundwork for the new law in May — a rare show of unity among two parties that are at each other's throats on just about everything else.
But the new law is not retroactive, meaning the dozen or so cases currently being investigated will proceed. These include probes into alleged Chinese abuses in Tibet, an Israeli air force bombing in Gaza that killed 14 civilians, and alleged torture at the U.S. prison for terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Garzon had Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, arrested in London in 1998 and tried to have him extradited to Madrid to face charges over torture and other abuses during his regime. Britain ultimately declined to hand him over, citing Pinochet's poor health.
Garzon indicted bin Laden in 2003 over the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
Source: AP News