Does Spain have extraterritorial jurisdiction for any crimes?

The extraterritorial jurisdiction in Spain could be for:

  1. Crimes committed by a Spanish national abroad.
  2. Crimes committed by a guest abroad that the Spanish courts have jurisdiction over.
  3. Crimes committed against a Spanish national abroad.

I provide some real life examples as used by other countries below.

In the United Kingdom, certain crimes, such as under the Bribery Act, can be prosecuted domestically, even though the alleged conduct took place abroad by virtue of the fact that the offender is a British national. In fact, this applies to several different crimes with extraterroritial jurisdiction.

In the United States, it is possible to prosecute someone for killing a US citizen abroad, in a third country.

Just a high level overview is required. I am not interested in private matters, like disputes.

  • 1
    Spain does indeed claim exceptionally broad extra-territorial jurisdiction in some areas. I'm not clear what is meant by "I am not interested in private matters, like disputes" which would seem to involve most crimes, is this really saying that you aren't interested in jurisdiction over civil lawsuits? Also, there is potentially a gap between what Spain claims and what other countries recognize, and it is a bit hard to determine which of these is the real question.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 18 at 0:02
  • @ohwilleke I am only interested in what Spain considers criminal matters, not what Spain considers civil lawsuits. I am surprised Spain has such jurisdiction! I hope to see an answer from you, this is interesting. Apr 18 at 0:34
  • 4
    I think more or less by definition no country has extra-territorial jurisdiction. Several countries claim extra-territorial jurisdiction in a number of situations and are able to actually enforce it in at least some of these situations. Are you interested in the situations where Spanish law claims extra-territorial jurisdiction?
    – quarague
    Apr 18 at 11:08
  • @quarague If you kill an American, or a French person, you can be punished in their countries. Does Spain have something similar, would it cover murder, rape, or only insanely serious things like war crimes? Apr 18 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


Spain is a signatory of the Rome Statute, and thus also accepts universal jurisdiction for certain very serious crimes. These include war crimes, crimes against humanity, human traficking and other internationally punishable crimes. It seems that, like most countries, such crimes can be brought to justice in Spain if any of the listed conditions are true: The victim was Spanish, the accused is in Spain, or the case affects Spain as a whole.

  • Would that cover something like killing a Spanish national in another country? I am getting confused, as from my understanding your links seem to talk about exotic things like genocide and war crimes. Apr 19 at 0:26
  • @user5623335 Murder is not normally considered an offense under the universal jurisdiction, so this does not directly apply. However, when a Spanish national is killed, the above conditions do hold and an investigation can be opened. But depending on where the crime has happened, it will be difficult for the Spanish prosecution to get access to any evidence or to get hold of the suspect. Of course they can issue an international warrant or ask for support from the local police.
    – PMF
    Apr 19 at 6:29
  • So you are saying: a Spaniard that commits a murder outside of Spain cannot be prosecuted inside of Spain. However, someone that kills a Spaniard outside of Spain could possibly be prosecuted if there is evidence etc... Where does it say that Spain can do this in the Penal Code? Apr 19 at 23:21
  • 1
    No, a Spaniard can always be prosecuted in Spain. Anybody that is not a Spaniard and has committed a crime outside of Spain is normally not prosecuted in Spain, unless he has committed one of the above severe crimes. If he is in Spain, he may be extradited upon request (typically from either the country where the crime was committed or his home country).
    – PMF
    Apr 20 at 6:53

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