Debate on Garzón continues; Strasbourg decision confirms his argument

May 19, 2010

The decision, yesterday, by the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial, CGPJ) that there are no legal impediments to Garzón’s taking up a position as special advisor to Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, has not stopped the debate on the merits–or the lack thereof–and the judicial soundness of the case against him, on charges of prevaricación, or knowingly overstepping his authority. In El País today, two judicial heavyweights–Andrés Márquez Aranda and Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, respectively the former President of the Supreme Court of Andalucía (one of Spain’s sixteen autonomous communities) and a former anti-corruption DA–criticize the Spanish Supreme Court, and in particular Justice Varela, for allowing the case to go forward because, in effect, it constitutes a “frontal attack on judicial independence and, therefore, on constitutional democracy” (“un ataque frontal a la independencia judicial y, por ende, al Estado democrático de derecho“).  Márquez Arana and Jiménez Villarejo present a detailed critique of Varela’s handling of the case, signaling a whole series of improper–or in any case unprecedented–procedures (including his editorial assistance in the “cleaning up” of the plaintiffs’ briefs) that, taken together, put the accused party, Baltasar Garzón, at a significant and unacceptable disadvantage. With some irony, they charge Varela with acting in an “authoritarian” manner. More importantly, they conclude that Varela operated in bad faith, violating the norms of neutrality and impartiality that should guide all judges. Meanwhile, in an unrelated decision, the Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg has confirmed one of the main arguments underlying Garzón’s attempt to open a case for crimes committed by the Nationalists, and later the Franco regime: that certain crimes are not susceptible to amnesty laws or a statute of limitations. or.