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Spain’s PP Seeks to Curb Judges Pursuing Crimes Against Humanity

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Spain’s ruling People’s Party is seeking to limit judges’ power to pursue foreign officials suspected of genocide and torture, and shelve probes into Chinese and U.S. officials.

The PP, which has a parliamentary majority, will today present the bill that would tighten the conditions for judges to pursue crimes committed abroad. The public prosecutor or the victim would have to file the case, and it would become harder to meet the condition of having a Spanish connection, according to the text published on Parliament’s website.

Spain’s National Court, which is best known internationally for the efforts of Judge Baltasar Garzon to bring former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial, has 15 cases open based on the concept of universal justice. Yesterday, the court ordered the arrest of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin for alleged crimes in Tibet, prompting China to say relations may be harmed if the government doesn’t handle the issue “properly.”

China is an increasingly important trading partner for Spain -- exports amounted to about 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) last year -- as the country relies on foreign sales to pull its economy out of a five-year slump. China is also an “important” investor in Spanish sovereign debt, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said today. China froze top-level contact with Norway after the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and salmon exports have plunged amid the rift.

The proposal, which was filed to Parliament on Jan. 24, will become a draft bill if it wins approval today. All the main opposition parties will vote against it, spokespeople for the groups said. An attempt in 2009 to restrict the use of universal justice won the support of all but two lawmakers.

Judges at the National Court are also investigating alleged torture in the Guantanamo Bay detention center and forced disappearances in Argentina, court documents show. The only person jailed by a Spanish court for crimes against humanity is former Argentine naval officer Adolfo Scilingo, for offenses during that country’s dictatorship.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Ross-Thomas in Madrid at erossthomas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Foxwell at sfoxwell@bloomberg.net

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