Windows on the World: Spanish Courts and the Location of Universal Jurisdiction
Stephanie R. Golob
Department of Political Science
Baruch College CUNY
Paper presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, ISA (New Orleans, February 17-20, 2010).
Like international law in general, the principle of universal jurisdiction relies, in practice, upon the domestication of international norms through the incorporation of treaty obligations into national legal codes. But universal jurisdiction is perhaps the most controversial of these border-crossing acts of international law, as the national judiciary of signatory states becomes the location where universal jurisdiction is housed and enacted, often in cases in which the alleged perpetrators, victims and the crime itself are associated with another location entirely. Despite considerable political and diplomatic obstacles to this creative, sovereignty-jumping and yet sovereignty-enshrining design, there have been windows which have opened up for the advancement of universal jurisdiction over the past six decades. In this paper, I will analyze one such case Spain, whose 1985 Organic Law of the Judiciary (LOPJ) opened such a window, and whose courts have since been a veritable magnet for such cases, from the Pinochet Case to more current cases in such far-flung places such as Tibet, Guatemala, Gaza, and Guantánamo. The paper will also analyze the partial closing of that window by legislative action in May 2009, thus specifying the international, domestic, and transnational mechanisms leading these windows to open and close.