Argentine judge invokes universal justice to probe Spain’s Franco-era crimes

October 31, 2010

Giles Tremlett reports for the Guardian:

In a stark reversal of roles, an Argentine judge has taken a step towards opening the first comprehensive investigation into the human rights abuses of General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain. Judge María Servini has asked Spain to declare whether its own courts are investigating cases of torture, murder and disappearance of Franco’s political opponents. … In a formal petition to Spain, Servini indicates that the court would investigate allegations of genocide, including tens of thousands of cases of “torture, assassination, forced disappearances and the stealing of children”. Her request mirrors those made over the past dozen years by Spanish courts which, using international law allowing human rights crimes to be investigated and tried elsewhere if a country cannot do so itself, have brought cases against several military regimes in Latin America. The Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón famously used this process to order the arrest of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998. In that case the law lords ruled that the former dictator should be extradited to face trial in Spain, although Jack Straw, home secretary at the time, finally sent the general back to Chile on health grounds in 2000.

More here. See also the Deutsche Welle: “With Garzon under indictment, many Spaniards now feel the Argentine court case is the last hope for justice.