That’s the question that the author of a Law blog makes (via) regarding the approval of the targeted killing of Islamist cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki by the Obama Administration.
The answer is NO. The trials he refers to, were based on article 23 Judiciary Organization Act. This article considers Spanish judges as “competent” when some crimes have been committed (genocide, terrorism, piracy, prostitution and child corruption, illegal drug trafficking, illegal people trafficking -slavery, for example-, female genital mutilation and any other that international treaties consider as such). Till last year, any Spanish “instruction/investigative” judge could conduct enquiries on these crimes wherever the place of the world they had been committed. The author tells about cases in which US (in which an Spanish cameraman was killed, a case rejected by Spanish judiciary because they were involved in a war action and the soldiers shot, believing they were terrorists, if I am not mistaken) and Israeli soldiers were involved. But there were also Chinese Communist leaders charged for Tibetan crimes. I imagine that in this case the accusation will be related to terrorism, although this would be a rather rare case as Al-Awlaki is a US citizen.
Anyway, Spanish Parliament passed a law last year to, among other things, limit the Spanish judges’ possibility of judging crimes committed abroad if the responsible or the victim is not an Spanish national or resident in Spain or if the attacker has some link to Spain (for example, has damaged Spanish interests abroad ). It also excludes any crime which should be judged by foreign tribunals or whose investigation or trial has begun by an international organization. The new paragraph, inside article 23 (Judiciary Organization Act – Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial), goes:
Sin perjuicio de lo que pudieran disponer los tratados y convenios internacionales suscritos por España, para que puedan conocer los Tribunales españoles de los anteriores delitos deberá quedar acreditado que sus presuntos responsables se encuentran en España o que existen víctimas de nacionalidad española, o constatarse algún vínculo de conexión relevante con España y, en todo caso, que en otro país competente o en el seno de un Tribunal internacional no se ha iniciado procedimiento que suponga una investigación y una persecución efectiva, en su caso, de tales hechos punibles.
In fact, the modification was protested from major human rights groups which thought the Govt didn’t want to fulfill his promise of fighting for human rights all over the world.
In this case, neither Obama nor Al-Awlaki have nothing to do with Spain. I don’t think of any “link of relevant connection” with Spain either. And being both of them US nationals and one of them the leader of another country, the only judges who could indict Obama are US ones. The rest of the countries can’t because Obama is the Chief of State of a foreign country (at least in Spain) so he has immunity of jurisdiction and of execution.
My take on this is that Spanish Judiciary has so much to do with the crimes that already happen inside Spain to go about searching for others. Also we are nowadays in a deep crisis and spending money to investigate crimes abroad when the situation in Spain is far from good (terrorism, teenagers’ violence, armed robberies, prostitution gangs, illegal immigration, etc), doesn’t make sense at all. Lastly, this will prevent judges from thinking themselves a double of Captain America or Superman and make them work strictly in what they are entitled to: administering justice to the benefit of Spanish citizens or residents.