Once upon a time there were parties that called themselves fascist. One of those was the government of General Francisco Franco. After they had won the war, they killed over 100,000 people in cowardly ways. Mass executions. The Catholic Church was complicit with the regime (see here and here).
It took until the 21st century, well over 50 years, until there was any serious examination of one of the greatest crimes against humanity, save the Holocaust itself, of the 20th century (*). A brave judge, Baltasar Garzon, decided to follow the findings of mass graves where the facts led.
And so of course he himself was prosecuted. Robert Cox, Buenos Aires Herald:
Baltazar Garzón, the judge who dared to challenge the immunity of military dictators, knows what the conservative establishment of Spain thinks of him. For daring to suggest that the crimes of the bloodstained Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco should be investigated and the secret graves of the victims disinterred, not only is the judge himself on trial, the human rights movement is also on trial by people opposed to the concept.
The major charge against Garzón is that he willfully violated the terms of a 1977 amnesty law which sought to draw a curtain on the past.
Because the three trials that Garzón faces appear politically motivated, all the major human rights organizations have sent observers to Madrid. Amnesty International’s legal adviser Hugo Relva, told the British newspaper, The Guardian: “On principle, Amnesty doesn’t give an opinion on the charges faced by a single person — but the Garzón case is an exception and we cannot remain silent on it. It is simply scandalous and unacceptable. The charges should be dropped and the case closed. This case affects the independence of judicial power in Spain. Other judges see it as a warning about what might happen to them if they continue with their own investigations.”
Because it was too transparent that Garzon was being silenced for having dared to open the case despite a 1977 amnesty law (which has no validity, because crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations), another of the trials was moved up. On Thursday, he was convicted of attempting to prevent money laundering by criminals and stripped of his judgeship. RTT News:
Garzon was accused of authorizing police for illegal interception of communications between lawyers and remand prisoners in connection with a corruption investigation involving politicians from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP) in Valencia and Madrid.
The judgment approved unanimously by the seven-member judges imposes “the definitive loss of the duty and the honors that he bears” as a judge of Spain’s National Court. The decision also bars him from “obtaining during the duration of the sentence any employment or duty with judicial or governing functions within the judiciary.”
Experts say the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday, which incidentally is not subject to appeal, effectively ends Garzon’s career as a judge.
This case is clearly selective prosecution, since Garzon only ordered the wiretap at the request of the prosecutor, the trial was shifted to another court and the new prosecutor and the new court ordered it maintained.
This is not the end of it. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, has reminded the Spanish courts that the amnesty law has no force. His judges themselves may one day be tried as part of a conspiracy to perpetuate crimes against humanity.
I’ll be writing to the Spanish Embassy. This is a terrible wrong, one that demonstrates the deep corruption of Spanish politics and law even today. Franco is not dead.
* Yes, also Stalin, Mao, Guatemala, and the Armenians. There was lots of killing in the 20th century. Probably even some examples I am forgetting at the moment. But this crime stands in that pantheon of evil.