Rights group urges Spain to abolish civil war amnesty law

[JURIST] Spain should repeal its 1977 amnesty law [press release] that bars investigation and prosecution of crimes committed under the Franco regime rather than "prosecuting a judge seeking accountability for past abuses," Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Friday. HRW called for Spain to comply with the 2008 recommendation [press release] from the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] to end the amnesty law. HRW asserts that the criminal investigation and pending judicial proceedings against Spanish National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] are at odds with the very principles that Garzon helped to enforce in prosecuting human rights abuses abroad. According to HRW Americas director Jose Manuel Vivanco, "Spanish courts have routinely failed to investigate allegations of horrendous crimes of the past, but are being surprisingly active in prosecuting a judge who tried to push for accountability."

Garzon is under judicial scrutiny for ordering an investigation [JURIST report] in September 2008 in response to a complaint by the Organization for Restoring Historical Memory [advocacy website, in Spanish] that the Franco regime carried out systematic killings and enforced disappearances of opponents. Last month, a Spanish Supreme Court [official website] judge rejected Garzon's motion to dismiss the complaint [text in Spanish, DOC] originally lodged by Manos Limpias [advocacy website], a far-right leaning advocacy organization. The judge ruled that Garzon may have exceeded his jurisdictional authority when he launched an investigation [JURIST report] into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] and during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]. Garzon maintains that he acted within the bounds of the law, basing his jurisdiction determination on the National Court's competence over crimes against the government and high authorities of the state. Garzon has petitioned [text in Spanish, PDF; El Pais report, in Spanish] the Spanish Supreme Court to allow him to continue in his duties during the investigation.

 

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