The lower house of Spain's Parliament on Thursday approved a bill proposed by the governing conservative Popular Party to sharply restrict Spanish courts' application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that courts in any country may act in cases involving crimes against humanity no matter where they are committed.

The bill passed by a margin of 180-137.

All of the "yes" votes were cast by PP legislators.

The text, which was approved via a fast-track procedure that excluded consideration of amendments, goes now to the Senate, where it is likely to pass easily.

The reform holds that now serious crimes committed outside Spanish territory may be investigated and tried in Spain, including genocide and crimes against humanity, only if the case is filed against Spaniards or foreigners who have acquired Spanish citizenship after the commission of the crime.

The change could affect about a dozen open cases, including the Spanish National Court's investigation of former Chinese President Hu Jintao for repression in Tibet and the prosecution of U.S. military personnel for the 2003 death of Spanish television cameraman Jose Couso during combat in Iraq.

Opposition parties said the use of expedited procedure removed the possibility of debate on the bill from Parliament and that, in practice, the initiative means the elimination of universal jurisdiction.

PP lawmaker Jose Miguel Castillo said that no international treaty recognizes the principle of universal jurisdiction as the law whereby one state may pursue unlimited legal measures against those who commit crimes in another state.

Spain's judiciary first invoked universal jurisdiction in 1998, when National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon indicted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The National Court later pursued cases against Israeli commanders and officials for civilian deaths in the Palestinian territories - that indictment was quashed within months of its being issued - and an investigation of the torture of terror suspects at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba. EFE