Garzón: The truth on trial in Spain

El juicio a Garzón por perseguir a una derecha, “coincidentemente” en el gobierno de España es una vergüenza internacional.

Una muestra es este texto del New York Times que alerta del peligro de que supone este juicio para la separación de poderes y afirma que no debe ser celebrado.

También The Economist se ha pronunciado varias veces sobre el tema: el Generalisimo debede estar riéndose en su tumba, pues por fin ha provocado un juicio… en el que se juzga a su juez.

En Brasil, Carta Capital publicó un artículo en la misma línea. Contó cómo el juez que persigue la corrupción y la dictadura es llevado a juicio. Antes, se había referido a su participación en los juicios a la dictadura, donde su mirada “no fue aguantada por los represores”.

Judge Garzón is undeniably flamboyant and at times overreaches, but prosecuting him for digging into Franco-era crimes is an offense against justice and history. The Spanish Supreme Court never should have accepted this case. Now it must acquit him.

EDITORIAL

Truth on Trial in Spain

Published: February 4, 2012

Terrible crimes were committed during and after Spain’s 1936-39 civil war that no court has yet examined or judged. No one knows how many people were taken away, tortured and murdered. Now, one of Spain’s top investigating magistrates, Baltasar Garzón, is on trial for daring to open an inquiry into those atrocities.

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Spain is now a vibrant democracy, but Judge Garzón’s trial, which opened last week, is a disturbing echo of the Franco era’s totalitarian thinking. He faces criminal charges that could suspend him from the bench for 20 years for defying an amnesty enacted in 1977 to smooth the transition to democracy. He rightly counters that under international law, there can be no amnesty for crimes against humanity and that unsolved disappearances — thousands of mass graves are unopened — constitute a continuing crime.

In 2008, Judge Garzón briefly began an official inquiry, ordering the opening of 19 mass graves and symbolically indicting Gen. Francisco Franco and several former officials, none still alive, for the disappearance of more than 100,000 people. An appellate court shut the inquiry down. The next year, two far-right groups brought criminal charges against the judge for defying the amnesty law. The government’s prosecutor argued that no crime had been committed, but the Supreme Court accepted the case.

Separately, Judge Garzón faces criminal charges for rulings in two other politically charged cases. We cannot judge the merits of these. But criminal prosecution of magistrates for their rulings is rare in Spain, and could chill judicial independence.

Judge Garzón became famous for his prosecutions of Basque terrorists, Argentine torturers, Chile’s former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and Spanish politicians. His powerful enemies now see a chance to end his career.

Judge Garzón is undeniably flamboyant and at times overreaches, but prosecuting him for digging into Franco-era crimes is an offense against justice and history. The Spanish Supreme Court never should have accepted this case. Now it must acquit him.

GENERALISIMO Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain for 36 years, may be laughing in his grave. An attempt by Baltasar Garzón, a magistrate renowned for his crusades against human-rights abusers, to investigate atrocities committed by Franco and his henchmen is set to produce a trial—but of Mr Garzón himself.

Baltasar Garzón

Judge not

Spain’s most famous magistrate faces trial—and possibly the end of his investigative career

Apr 8th 2010 | MADRID

GENERALISIMO Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain for 36 years, may be laughing in his grave. An attempt by Baltasar Garzón, a magistrate renowned for his crusades against human-rights abusers, to investigate atrocities committed by Franco and his henchmen is set to produce a trial—but of Mr Garzón himself.

On April 7th a magistrate ruled that Spain’s best-known judge should answer allegations that his investigation had overstepped judicial powers. Mr Garzón can appeal against the decision, but few now expect him to avoid trial, possibly within the next few months. Within weeks, perhaps days, Mr Garzón’s fellow judges are expected to suspend him from his job at Madrid’s National Court for the period of the trial. A further suspension, of up to 20 years, may come if they find him guilty of overextending his powers during his attempt, in 2008, to investigate the disappearance of 113,000 of Franco’s victims. Mr Garzón will defend himself. “We judges are like any other citizen and must comply with the rules,” he said last month. But his 23-year career as an investigating magistrate may be over.

If so, the death blow will have come from an unlikely source. The case against Mr Garzón was brought by supporters of Franco, a figure who Spaniards often claim to have put behind them. The judge’s accusers include a far-right union, Clean Hands, and Falange Española, the modern version of a political party many Spaniards blame for running death squads during and after the civil war.

The case is further proof of Mr Garzón’s tendency to act as a lightning rod for the issues that most trouble his country. Corruption, terrorism, organised crime and, now, the ghosts of Spain’s violent past have all come under the scrutiny of the 54-year-old judge. His decision to probe Francoist atrocities came several years after victims’ families began their own investigations, digging up the mass graves left by death squads and exposing the injustices of a painful period that the rest of the country had cloaked in silence.

Mr Garzón’s critics say he is more interested in promoting himself than the cause of justice. Jesús Zarzalejos, a law professor, recently argued in the conservativenewspaper ABC that Mr Garzón sees himself as “exceptional”; not bound by Spanish laws and the constitution as other judges are.

But admirers see a brave investigator who deserves the global acclaim heaped upon him for his use of international criminal law to pursue human-rights abusers across the world. Most notorious among these was a military dictator in the Franco mould, Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested and detained in London in 1998 after Mr Garzón issued an international warrant for his arrest. Pinochet avoided extradition to and trial in Spain only after Britain’s home secretary sent him home on health grounds. More successful was Mr Garzón’s attempt to bring Adolfo Scilingo, a self-confessed participant in Argentinian military repression, to book—five years ago, in Spain, he was sentenced to 640 years in prison.

In the Pinochet case, Mr Garzón admitted to having acted out of principle with little hope of success. Now he is being accused of putting principle before probity. His investigation into Francoist crimes, say his accusers, violated a 1977 amnesty law and a 2007 historical memory law, both of which attempted to deal with Spain’s troubled past. The former ensured no one could be tried for political crimes committed during the Franco era. The latter, according to Luciano Varela, the magistrate responsible for sending Mr Garzón to trial, prevented the judge from taking control of the process of locating and digging up the mass graves that still dot the Spanish countryside. To get around these restrictions, argues Mr Valera, Mr Garzón constructed artificial arguments, effectively trying to create law rather than administer it.

For his part, Mr Garzón argued that the consensus on international law was that amnesties were themselves illegal. He also borrowed a precedent from Chile, where an amnesty law was eventually circumvented with the argument that a continuing crime of kidnapping occurs where the bodies of those taken by death squads have not been found. He later closed his investigation, however, arguing that it was a matter for lower, provincial courts.

Human-rights campaigners have declared themselves outraged at the case against Mr Garzón. Emilio Silva, head of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which represents the families of Franco’s victims, says some of those who committed atrocities in the caudillo’s name are still alive. It is a terrible irony, he says, that the only person being pursued through the courts today because of Francoism is Mr Garzón.

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