Friday, April 09, 2010

Spain / Spanish Civil War

Spanish Justice on Trial 
By Miguel-Anxo Murado
The Guardian, April 9, 2010
"Judge Baltasar Garzón's latest case once again involves a high profile defendant: himself. After making headlines around the world for going after the likes of Osama bin Laden, the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Silvio Berlusconi, the Spanish judge will be sitting in the dock rather than presiding, charged with 'perverting the course of justice.' The reason? He dared to launch an investigation of the crimes of the Francoist dictatorship that ruled Spain between 1936 and 1975 and carried out well over 100,000 summary executions without proper trial. And if you think this is odd just wait, there's more: the plaintiffs in this case are three far-right political organisations, among them Falange Española, none other than the old Fascist party, which is in fact credited with most of those atrocities Garzón was set to investigate.
Actually, he didn't really intended to investigate any atrocities at all, rather he was acting at the behest of victim's relatives who wanted to find and exhume their bodies. As I have written in a previous article, there are more mass graves in Spain than in Bosnia and still more missing persons than in Argentina. What Garzón did was to demand information about their possible murderers as a necessary step to searching for the corpses. Even this was too much. Sounds bizarre? Truth be told, it actually makes a lot of sense. The case nicely encapsulates two serious failings in contemporary Spain. The first is the existence of a highly politicised and professionally incompetent judiciary. One of the two supreme court judges behind Garzón's prosecution, Adolfo Prego, often euphemistically described as 'ultra-conservative,' contributes opinion pieces to a pro-Franco magazine, while the other, Luciano Varela, is known for his professional enmity towards Garzón. The second problem this case also exposes is, of course, the eternal, unresolved question of General Franco's place in Spain's collective memory. [...]"

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