Argentina Invokes Universal Jurisdiction for Crimes Against Humanity | Argentina invoca la jurisdicción universal para crímenes contra la humanidad


Argentina Investigates Human Rights Crimes of Spain’s Franco Era

By Marcela Valente

English | Spanish

BUENOS AIRES — A judge in Argentina has begun to investigate human rights crimes committed during Spain’s civil war and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco (1936-1975).

Skull found by the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory in Santoyo, Spain. Volunteers of the Association found the remains of 25 people who had been executed during the Spanish Civil War.


Member of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory shows a list with some of the names of 130,000 people who went missing during Spain’s civil war.

This month, federal judge María Servini asked Spain for information on Spanish military officials, as part of a new investigation based on a lawsuit filed in April 2010 by human rights lawyers in Argentina in the name of relatives of victims of the Franco dictatorship.

The judge requested the names of military officers involved in the Franco regime; lists of victims of forced disappearance and summary execution; lists of children who were stolen from their parents during the dictatorship; and the names of companies that allegedly benefited from the forced labour of political prisoners.

Servini initially shelved the lawsuit, on the grounds that investigations had been opened in Spain. But the Cámara Federal, a second instance court, ordered her to investigate whether Spain’s justice system was effectively taking action.

The case thus landed back in the hands of Servini who, invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, issued the request for a wide range of information, such as the addresses – or death certificates – of agents of the regime.

The human rights lawyers who brought the suit presented Servini with a new document in which they stress that, after 36 years of dictatorship and 36 years of democracy in Spain,

“not only is there not even a truth commission, but not one single child has had his or her identity restored. “The case was opened in Argentina because everything indicated that not even with a socialist government did the will exist for it to prosper there,”

one of the Argentine lawyers, Beinusz Szmukler, told IPS,referring to the government of socialist prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004-Dec. 21, 2011).

To make his point, he pointed to the case against Spain’s internationally renowned judge Baltasar Garzón, who was suspended from his post in May 2010, accused of overstepping his jurisdiction for starting to investigate crimes committed during that country’s 1936-1939 civil war and subsequent dictatorship.

Garzón had applied the principle of universal jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by the dictatorships of Argentina (1976-1983) and Chile (1973-1990), when amnesty laws still blocked legal action in these two South American countries.

But when the judge launched a probe into human rights abuses in his own country, which were covered by an amnesty issued by parliament in 1977,

“he was shoved aside, and now he runs the risk of losing his career as a judge,” said Szmukler.

Spain’s Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory – which helps relatives search common graves for victims of the civil war and dictatorship – and a dozen human rights groups in Argentina are behind the lawsuit filed in Buenos Aires on behalf of the families of victims of the Franco era.

Citing many of the arguments presented by Garzón, the human rights lawyers filed the lawsuit in Argentine court in the name of six relatives of victims, who live in Argentina. The group of plaintiffs will grow in the next few months, because new cases of relatives are being presented, said Szmukler.

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. Severino Rivas was mayor of the coastal village of Castro de Rei in the northwestern Spanish province of Galicia when he was seized and shot. He was missing for decades until his remains were found in an unmarked common grave and handed over to Darío in 2005.

“Mr. Severino Rivas and the families of Inés García Holgado (another plaintiff) were the victims of a homicide technique perfected by the Spanish Falange: ‘paseos’ (strolls) that ended with a bullet to the back of the neck,” the lawsuit says.

Holgado is the grand-niece of Elías García Holgado, who was mayor of the town of Lumbrales and legislator in the western province of Salamanca when he was arrested in 1936. He was executed a year later.

The lawsuit says these circumstances are similar to those of thousands of other people killed in

“what constituted a systematic, widespread, deliberate plan to terrorise Spaniards who backed representative government, by means of the physical elimination of its most representative exponents.”

In their brief, the human rights lawyers note that Spanish courts actively exercised universal jurisdiction in cases of crimes against humanity committed in Argentina, Chile and Guatemala.

The aim of the legal action is not to question Spain’s amnesty law, which was recently upheld in the face of an attempt to repeal it, but to exercise universal jurisdiction in Argentina with respect to crimes

“that offend and injure humanity, and are still unpunished,”

the lawyers stated. Human rights organisations put the number of victims of forced disappearance during Spain’s civil war and the Franco dictatorship at 113,000.

Some 2,500 mass graves have been located and excavated over the last few years. In addition, there are an estimated 30,000 cases of children who were stolen in Spain and given or sold to adoptive families. But no legal action has been taken in any of these cases in Spain, and the now-adult children have never discovered their real identities or been reunited with their biological families.

In solidarity with these cases, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have joined the case as co-plaintiffs. The Grandmothers association was created to search for the children who were “disappeared” along with their parents in Argentina during the dictatorship and raised by military couples or families who adopted them in good faith.

Szmukler and the rest of the lawyers say they will not be satisfied with a declaration merely recognising that the genocide took place, and promising to find out the truth about what happened. There is a precedent for that in Argentina.

The descendants of people killed in the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire, which claimed some 1.5 million lives, successfully pressed for this South American country to officially recognise the genocide, in April.

“In the case of Spain, when we presented the lawsuit there were at least 13 (dictatorship-era) military officers still alive, and there are also the cases of 30,000 people who are unaware of their origins and identity,” the lawyer said.

“We want an in-depth investigation, to determine the truth and establish who was responsible. If Spain does not do it, we will do it here. I hope we get cooperation,” he added.


Source: IPS

Also read:
Argentina Gives 12 Ex-Officers Life Terms for Murder, Torture in ‘Dirty War’

Argentina Dictator Guilty of Torture


The Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction 28 (2001)

Princeton University Program in Law and Public Affairs

The participants in the Princeton Project on Universal Jurisdiction propose the following principles for the purposes of advancing the continued evolution of international law and the application of international law in national legal systems:

Principle 1 — Fundamentals of Universal Jurisdiction

1. For purposes of these Principles, universal jurisdiction is criminal jurisdiction based solely on the nature of the crime, without regard to where the crime was committed, the nationality of the alleged or convicted perpetrator, the nationality of the victim, or any other connection to the state exercising such jurisdiction.

2. Universal jurisdiction may be exercised by a competent and ordinary judicial body of any state in order to try a person duly accused of committing serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1), provided the person is present before such judicial body.

3. A state may rely on universal jurisdiction as a basis for seeking the extradition of a person accused or convicted of committing a serious crime under international law as specified in Principle 2(1) provided that it has established a prima facie case of the person’s guilt and that the person sought to be extradited will be tried or the punishment carried out in accordance with international norms and standards on the protection of human rights in the context of criminal proceedings.

4. In exercising universal jurisdiction or in relying upon universal jurisdiction as a basis for seeking extradition, a state and its judicial organs shall observe international due process norms including but not limited to those involving the rights of the accused and victims, the fairness of the proceedings, and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary (hereinafter referred to as “international due process norms”).

5. A state shall exercise universal jurisdiction in good faith and in accordance with its rights and obligations under international law.

Principle 2 — Serious Crimes Under International Law

1. For purposes of these Principles, serious crimes under international law include: (1) piracy; (2) slavery; (3) war crimes; (4) crimes against peace; (5) crimes against humanity; (6) genocide; and (7) torture.

2. The application of universal jurisdiction to the crimes listed in paragraph 1 is without prejudice to the application of universal jurisdiction to other crimes under international law.

Principle 3 — Reliance on Universal Jurisdiction in the Absence of National Legislation

With respect to serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1), national judicial organs may rely on universal jurisdiction even if their national legislation does not specifically provide for it.

Principle 4 — Obligation to Support Accountability

1. A state shall comply with all international obligations that are applicable to: prosecuting or extraditing persons accused or convicted of crimes under international law in accordance with a legal process that complies with international due process norms, providing other states investigating or prosecuting such crimes with all available means of administrative and judicial assistance, and under-taking such other necessary and appropriate measures as are consistent with international norms and standards.

2. A state, in the exercise of universal jurisdiction, may, for purposes of prosecution, seek judicial assistance to obtain evidence from another state, provided that the requesting state has a good faith basis and that the evidence sought will be used in accordance with international due process norms.

Principle 5 — Immunities

With respect to serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1), the official position of any accused person, whether as head of state or government or as a responsible government official, shall not relieve such person of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment.

Principle 6 — Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations or other forms of prescription shall not apply to serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1).

Principle 7 — Amnesties

1. Amnesties are generally inconsistent with the obligation of states to provide accountability for serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle in 2(1).

2. The exercise of universal jurisdiction with respect to serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1) shall not be precluded by amnesties which are incompatible with the international legal obligations of the granting state.

Principle 8 — Resolution of Competing National Jurisdictions

Where more than one state has or may assert jurisdiction over a person and where the state that has custody of the person has no basis for jurisdiction other than the principle of universality, that state or its judicial organs shall, in deciding whether to prosecute or extradite, base their decision on an aggregate balance of the following criteria:

  • (a) multilateral or bilateral treaty obligations;
  • (b) the place of commission of the crime;
  • (c) the nationality connection of the alleged perpetrator to the requesting state;
  • (d) the nationality connection of the victim to the requesting state;
  • (e) any other connection between the requesting state and the alleged perpetrator, the crime, or the victim;
  • (f) the likelihood, good faith, and effectiveness of the prosecution in the requesting state;
  • (g) the fairness and impartiality of the proceedings in the requesting state;
  • (h) convenience to the parties and witnesses, as well as the availability of evidence in the requesting state; and
  • (i) the interests of justice.

Principle 9 — Non Bis In Idem/ Double Jeopardy

1. In the exercise of universal jurisdiction, a state or its judicial organs shall ensure that a person who is subject to criminal proceedings shall not be exposed to multiple prosecutions or punishment for the same criminal conduct where the prior criminal proceedings or other accountability proceedings have been conducted in good faith and in accordance with international norms and standards. Sham prosecutions or derisory punishment resulting from a conviction or other accountability proceedings shall not be recognized as falling within the scope of this Principle.

2. A state shall recognize the validity of a proper exercise of universal jurisdiction by another state and shall recognize the final judgment of a competent and ordinary national judicial body or a competent international judicial body exercising such jurisdiction in accordance with international due process norms.

3. Any person tried or convicted by a state exercising universal jurisdiction for serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1) shall have the right and legal standing to raise before any national or international judicial body the claim of non bis in idem in opposition to any further criminal proceedings.

Principle 10 — Grounds for Refusal of Extradition

1. A state or its judicial organs shall refuse to entertain a request for extradition based on universal jurisdiction if the person sought is likely to face a death penalty sentence or to be subjected to torture or any other cruel, degrading, or inhuman punishment or treatment, or if it is likely that the person sought will be subjected to sham proceedings in which international due process norms will be violated and no satisfactory assurances to the contrary are provided.

2. A state which refuses to extradite on the basis of this Principle shall, when permitted by international law, prosecute the individual accused of a serious crime under international law as specified in Principle 2(1) or extradite such person to another state where this can be done without exposing him or her to the risks referred to in paragraph 1.

Principle 11 — Adoption of National Legislation

A state shall, where necessary, enact national legislation to enable the exercise of universal jurisdiction and the enforcement of these Principles.

Principle 12 — Inclusion of Universal Jurisdiction in Future Treaties

In all future treaties, and in protocols to existing treaties, concerned with serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2(1), states shall include provisions for universal jurisdiction.

Principle 13 — Strengthening Accountability and Universal Jurisdiction

1. National judicial organs shall construe national law in a manner that is consistent with these Principles.

2. Nothing in these Principles shall be construed to limit the rights and obligations of a state to prevent or punish, by lawful means recognized under international law, the commission of crimes under international law.

3. These Principles shall not be construed as limiting the continued development of universal jurisdiction in international law.

Principle 14 — Settlement of Disputes

1. Consistent with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, states should settle their disputes arising out of the exercise of universal jurisdiction by all available means of peaceful settlement of disputes and in particular by submitting the dispute to the International Court of Justice.

2. Pending the determination of the issue in dispute, a state seeking to exercise universal jurisdiction shall not detain the accused person nor seek to have that person detained by another state unless there is a reasonable risk of flight and no other reasonable means can be found to ensure that person’s eventual appearance before the judicial organs of the state seeking to exercise its jurisdiction.


Source: University of Minnesota Human Rights Library



Derechos humanos en España: Argentina investiga crímenes de la dictadura de Franco

Por Marcela Valente
IPS via Periodistas En Español

español | inglés

Buenos Aires — Cobró impulso en Argentina una causa judicial sobre graves delitos cometidos durante la Guerra Civil Española y la posterior dictadura de Francisco Franco (1936-1975).

Cráneo encontrado por la Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica en Santoyo, España. Los voluntarios de la Asociación encontró los restos de 25 personas que habían sido ejecutados durante la Guerra Civil española.


Miembro de la Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica muestra una lista con algunos de los nombres de 130.000 personas que desaparecieron durante la guerra civil de España.

La jueza federal argentina María Servini de Cubría abrió este mes una investigación a raíz de la querella presentada en abril de 2010 por abogados humanitarios de Argentina en nombre de familiares de víctimas del régimen franquista.

La magistrada reclamó a España nombres de militares involucrados en aquella dictadura (1939-1975), listas de desaparecidos, de fusilados y de niños apropiados, así como la identificación de empresas supuestamente beneficiadas por el trabajo forzado de detenidos, entre otras medidas de prueba.

La jueza había archivado inicialmente la denuncia por considerar que había investigaciones abiertas en España. Pero la Cámara Federal, un tribunal penal de segunda instancia, le ordenó indagar “si efectivamente” la justicia de ese país europeo estaba actuando.

Así, la denuncia volvió a manos de Servini quien, en ejercicio del principio de la jurisdicción universal, liberó este mes el exhorto solicitando gran cantidad de material probatorio, como el domicilio de agentes del régimen que aún viven y certificados de defunción de los que fallecieron.

Para reforzar la petición, los abogados querellantes presentaron a Servini un nuevo documento en el que subrayan que, después de 36 años de dictadura y otros tantos de democracia en España,

“no sólo no existe ni siquiera una Comisión de la Verdad, sino que no hay un solo niño al que se le haya restituido su identidad”.

“La causa fue iniciada en Argentina porque todo evidenciaba que ni con un gobierno socialista había voluntad de que prosperara allí”,

explicó a IPS uno de los letrados argentinos, Beinusz Szmukler, en referencia a la última administración del Partido Socialista Obrero Español, que se extendió desde 2004 hasta el 21 de este mes.

Como señal de ausencia de esa voluntad, el abogado recordó el proceso que se sigue en España al juez de la Audiencia Nacional de ese país, Baltasar Garzón, suspendido desde mayo de 2010 y acusado de prevaricación por haber abierto una investigación judicial sobre crímenes cometidos durante la guerra civil (1936-1939) y el posterior régimen de Franco.

Garzón había aplicado a su vez el principio de jurisdicción universal para entender en delitos cometidos por la dictadura de Argentina (1976-1983) y de Chile (1973-1990) cuando distintas normas nacionales impedían esos juicios en los dos países sudamericanos.

Pero cuando Garzón intentó indagar en crímenes de su país, extinguidos por una amnistía adoptada en 1977,

“fue desplazado y ahora corre el riesgo de perder su condición de juez”, recordó Szmukler.

A raíz de ese desplazamiento, la española Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica y una decena de organizaciones de derechos humanos de Argentina respaldaron la querella en Buenos Aires de familiares de víctimas del franquismo.

Con base en muchos de los argumentos de Garzón, los abogados presentaron la petición de investigación ante tribunales argentinos a nombre de seis descendientes de víctimas que viven en este país. El grupo de querellantes se ampliará en los próximos meses, ya que se están presentando nuevos casos de familiares, dijo Szmukler.

Uno de los demandantes es Darío Rivas, de 91 años, quien denunció el asesinato de su padre, Severino Rivas, supuestamente cometido en 1936 por miembros de la ultraderechista Falange Española.

Severino Rivas era alcalde de la localidad gallega de Castro de Rei, en la provincia de Lugo, noroeste de España, cuando fue apresado y fusilado. Permaneció como desaparecido durante décadas hasta que, a instancias de su hijo, sus restos fueron hallados en una fosa común. Darío los recuperó en 2005.

“El señor Severino Rivas y los familiares de (otra querellante) Inés García Holgado fueron víctimas de una técnica de homicidios perfeccionada por la Falange Española, que denominaba ‘paseos’ a los fusilamientos por la espalda”, dice la denuncia.

Holgado es sobrina nieta de Elías García Holgado, quien era alcalde del poblado de Lumbrales y diputado de la occidental provincia de Salamanca. También detenido en 1936, murió ejecutado un año después de su arresto.

Estas circunstancias

“son extensibles a decenas de miles de personas asesinadas en lo que constituyó un plan sistemático, generalizado, deliberado y planificado de aterrorizar a españoles partidarios de la forma representativa de gobierno, a través de la eliminación física de sus más representativos exponentes”, sostiene la querella.

En su presentación, los juristas recordaron que los tribunales españoles ejercieron activamente la jurisdicción universal en casos de crímenes de lesa humanidad cometidos en Argentina, Chile y Guatemala.

El objetivo no es cuestionar la vigencia de la ley de amnistía española, ratificada recientemente ante un intento de derogarla, sino ejercer la jurisdicción argentina respecto de crímenes

“que ofenden y lesionan a la humanidad y que permanecen impunes”, remarcaron los abogados.

Organizaciones de derechos humanos estiman en 113.000 la cantidad de personas desaparecidas en la guerra civil y el régimen de Franco, muchas supuestamente enterradas en unas 2.500 fosas comunes. Pero habría además unos 30.000 casos de menores supuestamente sustraídos de sus familias y apropiados ilegalmente.

Esas personas habrían sufrido la ocultación de su identidad y permanecen sin conocer su historia familiar y personal, sin que haya causa abierta por esos delitos en España, señalan activistas.

En solidaridad con estos casos, se sumó como querellante la organización Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, dedicada a la busca de hijos de desaparecidos argentinos que sufrieron secuestro y pérdida de identidad a manos de agentes de la dictadura de este país.

Por eso Szmukler y demás abogados sostienen que la demanda “no se conforma” con una declaración de reconocimiento del genocidio y de compromiso de indagar en la verdad de los hechos.

Ese antecedente existe en Argentina, donde descendientes de armenios muertos en una operación ejecutada por el Estado turco entre 1915 y 1923, lograron que la justicia de este país sudamericano reconociera ese genocidio en una sentencia sin carácter punitivo, emitida en abril.

“En el caso de España, cuando presentamos la querella había al menos 13 militares vivos, y además están los casos de 30.000 personas que desconocen su verdadera identidad”, dijo el abogado.

“Queremos una investigación a fondo, que se determine la verdad y se establezcan las responsabilidades. Si no lo hace España, lo haremos acá. Ojalá que haya colaboración”, agregó.


Fuente:  IPS via Periodistas En Español

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