June 9, 2015 / 2:39 PM / 2 years ago

Spain drops inquiry into killing of cameraman by U.S. shell in Iraq

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's High Court closed a 12-year inquiry into the killing of cameraman Jose Couso by a U.S. tank shell in Iraq in 2003, a court document showed, after the judge concluded a change in Spanish law made the case impossible to pursue.

Spanish judicial authorities had sought the arrest and questioning of three U.S. soldiers accused of involvement in Couso's death. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed by the shell that crashed into a Baghdad hotel.

The court had sought to detain the men using universal justice, the concept that some crimes such as genocide and torture are so serious they can be prosecuted across borders.

The law, pioneered by Spain, famously led to the detention in London of Chilean former dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 through an arrest warrant issued from Spain.

However, Spain's center-right government last year curbed the powers of judges to prosecute human rights cases across borders using the law after countries like China bristled at Spanish judicial investigations into crimes like alleged genocide by former Chinese officials in Tibet.

Reforms to the law made it impossible to prosecute any war crime carried out against a Spaniard unless the accused had sought refuge in Spain, High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz said in the court document seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Pedraz said last year it had been impossible to bring the U.S. soldiers to Spain to get them to testify in a Spanish court. The three men had been cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. military investigation. The United States said it would not extradite the three.

Reporting by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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