Spain's Senate approved on Wednesday a bill to restrict 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 measure passed the lower house in late February and is set to become law.

As was the case in the lower house, the measure was approved in the Senate with only the votes of the conservative Popular Party.

The reform means that from now on, crimes committed outside Spanish territory may be prosecuted in Spain only if the alleged perpetrators are Spaniards or foreigners who acquired Spanish citizenship after the commission of the offense.

The immediate effect will be to quash 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.

In Wednesday's debate in the Senate, the opposition reproached the PP for its "meddling" in judicial matters.

The initiative was criticized by the opposition both for its essence, which they say "opens the door" to impunity, and for the way it was presented, namely via expedited procedure that limited legislative debate.

The PP replied that the reform constitutes "a perfectly legal option of legislative policy" and "scrupulously" respects international treaties dealing with the subject.

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