The Zapato Is on the Other Foot: Argentine Court to Hear Case on Spanish Human Rights Violations

January 2, 2012

In an interesting turn of events, via IPS News, Spanish human rights violations during the Franco-era are being heard in an Argentine court.  According to the article, “One of the plaintiffs is 91-year-old Darío Rivas, who is seeking justice in the murder of his father, Severino Rivas, purportedly killed in 1936 by members of Spain’s fascist Falange movement.”

It seems that the plaintiffs are arguing that Argentine courts have proper jurisdiction over the case on the principle of universal jurisdiction.  Of course, universal jurisdiction requires that the court with proper territorial jurisdiction be unable or incompetent to hear the case of their own volition.  So is this the case in Spain?  Well, with Spanish amensty for Franco-era war crimes, and the rail-roading of human rights crusader Baltasar Garzón, it seems pretty clear that Spain has no interest in seeking justice for these victims, and may even be obstructing justice.  So, in the absence of a willing territorial court, any court is competent to try a hostis humani generis.

And of course, these is no small amount of poetic justice that Argentina should pick up the slack for Spain’s human rights failure.  The concept of universal jurisdiction is steadily making strides in promoting global justice.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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