Spain’s highest court has condemned Baltasar Garzon, the nation’s most-prominent judge, on a series of political charges that boil down to the fact that he stood for morality above politics in the investigation of crimes that have not been investigated or solved since the days of the dictator Francisco Franco.
The charges against him include claims that he conducted illegal wiretaps and “exceeded his authority,” but make no mistake — this is a decision by a tainted court that seeks to allow the atrocities of Spain’s past to be left untold.
The decision was praised by Spain’s right-wing Popular Party, which is basically the political inheritor of Franco’s legacy. The new Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, is a member of the Popular Party.
The court ruled Garzon guilty of the first round of charges and thereby stripped him from serving in any legal capacity for 11 years.
Garzon, 56, became prominent in the 1990s when he issued an international warrant against the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The warrant ultimately led to Pinochet’s arrest in Britain where he had been living with the support of then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Pinochet was returned to Chile to face human rights charges.
In 2009, Garzon also considered charging Bush administration officials on international human rights counts for having justified torture of political prisoners in the war on terror.
Garzon, who pursued corruption and domestic terrorism cases at home, finally decided to tackle the often suppressed issues of mass graves and human rights abuses still left unresolved during Franco’s 35 years in power.
Franco came to power after staging a military coup in 1936 against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government. He triumphed in 1939 with the help of Adolf HItler and Benito Mussolini in what many historians consider to have been the Nazis’ trial run of their war machine before the start of World War II. Crimes committed during the Franco period are generally covered by an amnesty law, but Garzon contends that amnesty should not apply to human rights cases.