ICC chief awards consulting contract to controversial Spanish judge

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed today that he has offered a seven-month consultancy to the controversial Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (right), who won fame in 1998 by issuing a war crimes indictment against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator. Moreno-Ocampo said Garzón’s “extensive experience in investigating massive crimes ...

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DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed today that he has offered a seven-month consultancy to the controversial Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (right), who won fame in 1998 by issuing a war crimes indictment against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator.

Moreno-Ocampo said Garzón's "extensive experience in investigating massive crimes committed by states and non-state organizations will be a great contribution to my office." He said that Garzón has already played a role in a preliminary examination of alleged war crimes in Colombia and would help the prosecutor's office improve its investigative methods.

But the appointment has rankled diplomats who fear that his selection will undercut their efforts to broaden support for the court in Africa and other countries. Garzón is the most notable advocate of "universal jurisdiction," a controversial judicial theory that maintains that local judges have the authority to prosecute human rights abuses that occur anywhere in the world.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed today that he has offered a seven-month consultancy to the controversial Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (right), who won fame in 1998 by issuing a war crimes indictment against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator.

Moreno-Ocampo said Garzón’s “extensive experience in investigating massive crimes committed by states and non-state organizations will be a great contribution to my office.” He said that Garzón has already played a role in a preliminary examination of alleged war crimes in Colombia and would help the prosecutor’s office improve its investigative methods.

But the appointment has rankled diplomats who fear that his selection will undercut their efforts to broaden support for the court in Africa and other countries. Garzón is the most notable advocate of “universal jurisdiction,” a controversial judicial theory that maintains that local judges have the authority to prosecute human rights abuses that occur anywhere in the world.

Diplomats are concerned that Garzón’s appointment will mobilize opposition to the court in the weeks leading up to a major review conference in Kampala, Uganda, which will meet to expand the international court’s authority. At the conference, states party to the Rome Statute, which created the court, will be discussing whether to allow the prosecutor to begin investigating crimes of aggression.

The ICC prosecutor’s move comes as Garzón is facing the prospect of losing his job in Spain. A Supreme Court judge indicted Garzón on charges leveled by two conservative groups that he had exceeded his authority by launching an investigation into the killing and disappearances of 100,000 civilians by the late Spanish military ruler Gen. Francisco Franco during the 1930s.

Garzón, the magistrate of Spain’s national court, requested leave from his post on Tuesday to serve at the Hague-based court. He could be suspended from his post by Friday, according to the Associated Press. He is likely to face trial in the coming months.

“There is no doubt about the fact that Judge Garzón is a controversial figure and his appointment will attract attention and generate controversy,” said Richard Dicker, an expert on the court at Human Rights Watch. “Moreno-Ocampo is not retaining Judge Garzón for his expertise in universal jurisdiction; he’s retaining him for his expertise in conducting difficult investigations. No state concerned about universal jurisdiction should fear his appointment.”

Dicker said that his organization believes that conservative members of the Spanish judiciary are responsible of conducting a “politically motivated prosecution against Judge Garzón.”

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

Tag: Spain

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