Anorak | Human Rights hero Baltasar Garzón abused human rights – the grinding hypocrisy

Human Rights hero Baltasar Garzón abused human rights – the grinding hypocrisy

by | 9th, February 2012

TO Spain for an episode of gross human right hypocrisy. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, 56 – a Human Rights judge – has been found guilty of ordering wiretaps of prisoners talking to their lawyers.

He is barred from the bench for 11 years.

Javier Baena, Garzón’s lawyer, reacted to the sentence:

“We shall carry on fighting, carry on appealing. We have a long road ahead, but I believe both he and I are more than strong enough.”

The Guardian writes:

The detainees are accused of paying off politicians to obtain lucrative government contracts…

Garzón argued during the trial that he had ordered the wiretaps because he thought the lawyers were being given instructions by the detainees to launder money. nThe judged grabbed headlines around the world in 1998 by using international human rights law to order the arrest in London of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

There is more to the judge than just that. In May 2010 he got the boot from Spain’s judiciary:

Spain’s crusading judge Baltasar Garzon was suspended from his post Friday ahead of his trial on charges of abuse of power linked to a probe of Franco-era crimes, judicial sources said. They said the body that oversees the judiciary, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), decided unanimously to suspend Garzon, two days after the Supreme Court cleared the way for his trial.

The previous February the LA Times had written:

…it is perhaps ironic that the biggest threat to Garzon right now comes not from some hit man but from his own judiciary,lleges that the judge has overreached at home by trying to probe Spanish Civil War atrocities that were covered by an amnesty the country’s parliament passed in 1977. Many of Garzon’s adversaries on the right and the left have come together in support of the case against him. It’s possible Garzon will be suspended from his duties in the coming days. If convicted, his career as a judge would be over.

Tens of thousands of Spaniards died or disappeared in the civil war, which ushered in the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco in 1939. When Franco died in 1975, the amnesty was widely seen as essential for a transition to democracy. But many of the victims have never been accounted for, and the country has not fully come to terms with its violent past. Garzon opened the case on behalf of relatives who sought to exhume and identify the dead. After right-wing groups filed a complaint, an investigative judge concluded that Garzon “consciously decided to ignore” the will of parliament in pursuing the case, and now a five-judge panel must decide whether to put him on trial for criminal intent. Garzon denies wrongdoing; the disappearances, he says, were crimes against humanity and, therefore, cannot be covered by an amnesty.

We admire Garzon for a lifetime of pursuing criminals without regard to ideology or political bent, often at great personal risk. We also recognize that his outsized ego and appetite for attention have antagonized colleagues and politicians. Though we are in no position to judge the legal challenge against him, we worry about politicization of the Spanish legal system with this divisive case, and the haste with which events are unfolding: An administrative panel is considering Garzon’s suspension even before judges decide whether to allow charges to be filed.

We sincerely hope that the Spanish courts will put aside personal animosities and political vendettas, and that Garzon’s enemies will not use this case to bring down a judge they dislike. Love him or hate him, he deserves a fair hearing. And a democratic Spain deserves an upstanding judiciary.

In October 2008

Garzon ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain, and ordered government agencies and the mayors of four cities to produce the names of people buried in mass graves in order to assemble a definitive national registry, despite a 1977 amnesty law.

Jose Guardia looked at the LA Times defence of Garzón:

Let’s start with the Franco regime prosecution (leaving aside that Generalissimo Franco is still dead, as do the main strongmen). Many people, virtually all but a handful of regime nostalgics, welcome the attempt to unbury the corpses of people executed by the Franco’s people. The problem is that there’s also hundreds of people buried in mass graves which were killed by Second Republic paramilitaries, even official law enforcement agents (in a civil war both sides killed and get killed, you know). And besides the insistence that he should investigate them too, and indict the culprits too, he’s unwilling to do so. That’s where the unlawful prosecution comes in.


 …the 1977 amnesty approved by the Spanish parliament at the beginning of the democratic transition after Franco’s death did not clear “atrocities linked to Gen. Francisco Franco’s four-decade-long dictatorship,” as the Wall Street Journal states (it’s not the only one doing so). The amnesty had been a rallying cry even before the transition, but not by the right seeking to absolve themselves for their crimes but by the left, in order to being able to start from scratch and being able to participate openly in the political process. It was also a demand from Basque and Catalan nationalists who at the time often took the streets with slogans like “Libertad, amnistía, estatuto de autonomía” (Freedom, Amnesty, and Statute of Autonomy). The 1977 amnesty was not aimed at the ‘heirs of Franco’ because those guys at the time still enjoyed strong links to the military. The army’s tanks and guns were enough protection against any temptation to go after them (the situation completely changed after the 1981 coup attempt: the modernization and cleanup of reactionary elements in the army was thorough and masterly done, with impeccable democratic methods by the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez; but we’re talking about an earlier time now). The amnesty benefited not just leftist parties and politicians, which were illegal until then, but also political prisoners and most notably, also those convicted for terrorism and other crimes. It was passed by a big majority of leftist, centrist and right-of-center parties. The only ones against it were a handful of right-wing lawmakers who opposed it precisely because the amnesty set free all Basque ETA terrorists with blood crimes, including those who had killed scores law enforcement officers, servicemen, civilians, even those who killed Admiral Carrero Blanco, whom Franco had appointed as his successor, in 1973. To summarize: the 1977 amnesty was a law to benefit the left which was still outside the institutions, not the right who had inherited them from Franco.


But, as I said, there’s other cases against Garzón that are being investigated. One (link in Spanish), the year on leave he spent teaching in NYU, between March 2005 and June 2006. He failed to declare he was getting paid a grant for him, his assistant, and his daughter schooling, by NYU, so the Spanish judiciary kept paying him his regular salary as if he didn’t (that’s illegal). More damning, NYU paid him with funds provided by Banco Santander. Garzón asked personally in letters to Emilio Botín, the bank’s CEO and one of its main shareholders, to pay NYU in order for NYU to pay him. Worst of all, just as Garzón’s leave ended and after he came back to Spain and resumed his duties as a magistrate, he immediately acquitted Botín from a high-profile case around the illegal concession of loans.


… it’s irrelevant whether the groups that denounced Garzón at the courts are far right, far left, Raelians, or believers in the healing power of the virgins’ menstrual blood. Just like anyone else, the groups who denounced Garzón (they are indeed right wingers, and not the Tea Party-are-fascists kind of right; those guys are the Falange and ultra groups, which are residual but nevertheless exist) still have the right of taking someone to courts, no matter how repugnant we think their positions are.

So. The Human Rights hero abused human rights. Does it get worse..?

Posted: 9th, February 2012 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink