Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spain / Genocide Tribunals / Universal Jursidiction

Latin America Feels the "Garzón Effect"
By Daniela Estrada
IPS News dispatch, April 19, 2010
"Latin America owes Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón, who is facing prosecution in his country for trying to investigate Franco-era abuses, for the groundbreaking invocation of legal principles that have led to trials for crimes against humanity in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay, human rights lawyers say. Chilean lawyer Roberto Garretón coined the phrases 'the Garzón effect' and 'the Pinochet effect,' after the Spanish magistrate tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) from Britain in 1998 to try him for crimes against humanity committed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship he led. Pinochet, who was arrested while recovering from surgery for a slipped disc in a London clinic, ended up spending more than 500 days under house arrest in the British capital until the government of that country released him on humanitarian grounds. After the dictator returned to Santiago, he faced legal action for human rights abuses and embezzlement, but he was never convicted. In any case, prosecutions for murders, forced disappearances and torture committed by the dictatorship increased exponentially after 1998.
'The "Garzón effect" means judges all over the world learned that it was possible to do justice' in the case of crimes against humanity, and 'the "Pinochet effect" means that it's not a good idea for any human rights violator to travel,' Garretón, a former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told IPS. In other words, the principle of universal justice began to be applied, according to which no amnesty or statute of limitations applies to crimes against humanity, whose perpetrators can be tried in any country if they are not prosecuted in the country where the crimes were committed. But now Garzón is in the dock himself, on charges of overreaching his powers by attempting to clarify the fate of an estimated 114,000 victims of forced disappearance during Spain's 1936-1939 civil war and the early years of the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco -- crimes that were amnestied in 1977, two years after the dictator's death. The magistrate, who sits on the Audiencia Nacional -- Spain's highest criminal court -- faces up to 20 years' suspension from the bench in the case brought by far-right groups in Spain, which argue that his investigation violated the amnesty law. 'What Spain is doing now is a reversal of the Garzón effect,' said Garretón. Spain's 'superjudge' is also facing trial in two other cases -- the 'Gurtel case' affecting the right-wing opposition People's Party (PP), in which Garzón is accused of illegal wiretapping of the defendants facing corruption charges; and for dropping tax fraud charges against Santander Bank executives. In the second case, Garzón was accused of receiving financing from the Santander Bank for his sabbatical year at New York University. The university has denied, however, that he received money -- directly or indirectly -- from the bank, which merely sponsored a few events there in which he participated. 'Garzón's actions had extraordinary importance in the (2003) repeal' of Argentina's two amnesty laws that let human rights violators off the hook, Argentine lawyer Carlos Slepoy told IPS. The lawyer lives in Spain, where he represents the families of victims of Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship. 'The overturning of the amnesty laws, which occurred first in Congress (and was ratified by the Supreme Court in 2005) happened after Garzón sought the arrest and extradition of 46 former military and civilian officials of the regime, many of whom were high-ranking officers who enjoyed total impunity,' Slepoy said. In response to the prosecution Garzón currently faces in Spain, Slepoy and other human rights lawyers brought a lawsuit on genocide charges in Argentina's courts on behalf of the families of two former Spanish mayors who were killed by pro-Franco forces in Spain. 'Garzón's actions that led to Pinochet's arrest, and his attempt to try former Argentine officials were vital to the decision by Spain's Audiencia Nacional to accept the case on genocide in Guatemala,' Benito Morales, a lawyer for the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation, told IPS. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Ashley Black for bringing this source to my attention.]

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:42 AM

    You have no clue what Garzón-gate is all about. He is not trying to clarify/investigate any crime. If he really wanted that he wouldn't avoid to investigate all of the abuses committed during the Spanihs II Republic by the Frente Popular party against anarchists, conservatives, religious people, etc. Why did he never try to investigate Cuba or China? The problem with Garzón is that he looks like a pop star more than a judge and he's made some awful things and he should pay for it like any other human being. He can't pretend he is above the good and bad and he should investigate and clarify faisan-gate.


Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ