Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | April 8, 2014

International law trumps transitional laws.

It seems some in Colombia do not understand the extreme importance of respecting victims, and the following is to be noted by those who lobby for impunity and relaxed transitional laws in exchange for what they call “peace.”

The jist is: International law trumps transitional laws. 

In Spain, following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, after 40 years of a dictatorship that trampled on civil liberties and instilled fear, a sweeping amnesty law absolved everyone, both in the far-right and the far-left. Spaniards — like Colombians nowadays — were told to forget in the name of reconciliation.

For Spanish victims there would be no justice.

But victims of the Franco dictatorship are now taking their complaints to Argentina, invoking the legal principle of universal jurisdiction under which certain crimes, because of their magnitude, transcend borders, the New York Times reported.

An Argentine judge is now seeking international arrest warrants for Spanish citizens responsible of heinous crimes against humanity — torture, shootings, forced disappearances, stolen babies.

Further the Argentine Foreign Ministry ordered its embassies and consulates around the world to collect additional complaints by Franco victims and to facilitate video hearings through conference calls.

Pablo de Greiff, a United Nations special rapporteur, told the NYT that Spain “lagged behind” other European countries in addressing its recent past. He said Spain’s government had done too little to help victims of the Franco era, and recommended setting aside the amnesty law so that prosecutions could go forward, either in Argentina or in Spain.

Judge Baltasar Garzón told the NYT: “… they don’t understand that now, the government is not allowing access to the truth, to justice.”

And many are seeking justice on behalf of their grandparents.

Argentina is turning the tables on Spain by using the international human rights law that Spain itself used in 2005 to prosecute a member of Argentina’s former military dictatorship in Spanish courts for crimes against humanity.

Judge Garzón used the same principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute the Argentine navy captain Adolfo Scilingo in Madrid in 2005. Scilingo was convicted for throwing drugged political prisoners out of an aircraft into the sea.

This means that whatever macabre move is made by Colombian politicians that use peace talks to sway votes and seek re-elections is not the end of the line for Colombian victims. It has been shocking to hear President Santos and FARC leaders speak of the International Criminal Court in the same vein, with complete disregard for victims.


ICC Prosecutor speaks against Colombia’s Legal Framework for Peace.

Around 1,387 minors in ranks of armed drug groups between 2012 and 2013.

A reminder of the protests of Feb. 2008 against FARC’s violence.


  1. Good point. I would certainly like for all FARC leaders to be punished.

  2. No, you did not miss any elections. But you did miss the point of the post. Current events, as is evident with Spanish victims seeking their day in an Argentine court, show the limits of transitional law as international criminal law is applied more often. Transitional laws are considered local and national laws. However, international law applies to a universal stature in which if a country has ratified it, it could potentially trump a transitional/ national/ local law.

  3. I hate to tell you, but “international law” does not trump local and national law, because international authorities do not represent any local or national people group. Or did I miss that election?

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