A Spanish court on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the Italian military's 1937-1939 aerial bombardments of Barcelona, the first such judicial probe of Spanish Civil War-era crimes.

The ruling overturns a lower court's decision to reject the case, which was brought by the Barcelona chapter of the Italian anti-fascist group L'Altra Italia and two victims of the airstrikes.

The bombings of densely populated neighborhoods "are notable because it was a civilian target, since the battlefront was very far away" and they served as a "testing ground" for similar, subsequent crimes, the Barcelona Provincial Court said.

Bombardments of a civilian population entail "the commission of mass crimes punishable by ... any law at any time and place," and therefore they "can and must be investigated by the Spanish courts," the ruling said.

The court's acceptance of the case, filed with it a year ago after Spain's National Court ruled it lacked jurisdiction to investigate the matter," marks the first time a Spanish court has applied international law on war crimes and crimes against humanity in ordering an investigation into alleged atrocities committed during the 1936-1939 civil war.

The provincial court has offered the Barcelona municipal government and Catalonia's regional government the possibility of joining the case as plaintiffs.

Wednesday's ruling will help "lift the wall of impunity" for civil-war crimes and reignite the debate over historical memory, plaintiffs' attorney Jaume Asens told Efe. EFE