- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzon has made a name for himself by prosecuting human rights abusers around the world — including former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet — using universal jurisdiction to get around national amnesties. But Garzon is now himself being charged with abuse of power relating to an investigation of murder’s and disappearances under the Franco regime. His supporters are now fighting back:
Lawyers representing Argentine relatives of three Spaniards and an Argentine killed during the 1936-39 war will ask the federal courts here Wednesday to open an investigation, and hope to add many more cases in the months to come.
So Garzon’s supporters now hope to launch the same investigation – citing the same principles of international law – from Buenos Aires. And while Garzon limited the scope to crimes committed until 1952, the Argentine rights groups hope to address any state terror in Spain from 1936-1977, when its democracy was restored.
Attorney Carlos Slepoy, a specialist in human rights law, told The Associated Press the plaintiffs are invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction, which provides that genocide and crimes against humanity "can be prosecuted by the courts of any country.
The choice of Argentina is interesting since it was Garzon who led the charge to prosecute military figures there for crimes committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship.
Garzon is currently being charged with violating a 1977 amnesty law designed to help Spain move on from the Franco years. I don’t know nearly enough to weigh in on the legal questions involved here, but politically it doesn’t look very good that Spain was willing to let Garzon prosecute abuses in other countries for years, but became uncomfortable with his tactics as soon as he started poking around in his own country’s dirty laundry. This type of challenge should have been expected.