Spain judge Garzon defends 2008 Franco probe News
Spain judge Garzon defends 2008 Franco probe

[JURIST] Spanish National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] testified Wednesday before the Criminal Law Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court [official website] in response to accusations that he exceeded his authority when he launched an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] despite a 1977 amnesty law. Garzon abstained from responding to questions from the complainants and answered only those of the judge, the prosecutor, and his own lawyer. Garzon maintained that he acted within the bounds of the law and appropriately applied the law at all times. The complaint against Garzon was lodged by Manos Limpias, a far-right leaning advocacy organization, and the conservative group Liberty and Identity Association [advocacy websites, in Spanish]. The court announced in May that it would hear the challenge [JURIST report]. If the court decides to hold a trial, Garzon could be tried for the crime of knowingly issuing a resolution without the authority to do so and could face disbarment.

In September 2008, Garzon ordered an investigation [JURIST report] in response to a complaint lodged by the Organization for Restoring Historical Memory [advocacy website, in Spanish] that the Franco regime carried out systematic killings and enforced disappearances of opponents. In October, Garzon ordered the exhumation [JURIST report] of mass graves where victims of the Franco regime are thought to be buried. The National Court has jurisdiction over crimes against the government and high authorities of the state. Spanish prosecutors challenged [JURIST report] the probe and Garzon subsequently dropped [BBC report] the investigation in November upon concluding that the suspects could not be held legally responsible as 44 of them, including Franco, were already deceased. Also in October, the UN called on for Spain to abolish the 1977 amnesty law [press release]. The Spanish parliament passed legislation [JURIST report] in 2007 condemning the Franco government, acknowledging its victims, and setting aside money to compensate them.