Intellectuals, HR groups rally to support Garzón as he faces trials

January 14, 2012

Baltasar Garzón in New York City, 14 May 2011. Photo Richard Bermack

A group of prominent Spanish intellectuals including the poet Luis García Montero and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar  have rallied to the support of Baltasar Garzón, the crusading Spanish magistrate who last year received the first ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. So have Human Rights organizations worldwide. In the next two weeks, Garzón will face two trials  in Spain’s Supreme Court: one for allegedly 0rdering illegal wiretaps in the investigation of a wide-ranging corruption scandal of the conservative Partido Popular, and one for allegedly exceeding his judicial authority when, in 2008, he initiated a judicial investigation of crimes against humanity committed under the leadership of long-time dictators Francisco Franco–a cause now picked up by the Argentine judiciary. Pending these trials, Garzón has been suspended from his post at the National Criminal Court since May 2010. If convicted, Garzón faces disbarment. Ironically, he would be the first person to be convicted for Franco’s crimes and in relation to the political corruption ring he investigated.

“The upcoming trial of the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón for investigating abuses from Spain’s past threatens the concept of accountability in Spain and beyond,” Human Rights Watch said yesterday in a press release. “What bitter irony that Garzón is being prosecuted for trying to apply at home the same principles he so successfully promoted internationally,” said Reed Brody, HRW’s counsel. “Thirty-six years after Franco’s death, Spain is finally prosecuting someone in connection with the crimes of his dictatorship – the judge who sought to investigate those crimes.”

Garzón is “Franco’s last victim,” according to the Spanish newspaper Público, reporting on the protest by the group “In Solidarity with Garzón,” which yesterday issued a statement arguing that a conviction of Garzón would constitute “an irreparable blow and an enormous step backward in the consolidation of Spanish democracy”.

Garzón’s groundbreaking work has left an impressive legacy that has made possible the prosecution worldwide of human rights abusers, including former military commanders, political leaders, and terrorists. Just today, El País reports that Garzón’s successor at the National Criminal Court, Judge Pablo Ruz, has sent the prosecutor a 19-page brief reactivating the investigation of human rights abuses and war crimes at the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay. Given the lack of judicial action on the part of the US and British authorities, Ruz argues that his court has jurisdiction to pursue the case against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, among others.

For previous Volunteer coverage of the Garzón cases, see here.