Today the Spanish memorialist blogosphere has been on fire with the news that Judge Baltasar Garzón is most likely headed to the Tribunal Supremo (TS), or Spanish Supreme Court, to face charges that he knowingly acted beyond his legal capacities when he spearheaded a criminal and judicial investigation into the crimes of Francoism. While I do not profess a mastery of the Spanish court system, by following the Garzón case closely in the Spanish and international press, I have been able to condense the story to the following points, which I have laid out in a more-or-less chronological fashion here:
- Garzón was the first to open a penal cause about, and to use the phrase "crimes against humanity" in relation to, the crimes of the Franco repression.
- Garzón's October 2008 "auto," prepared with the help of countless, faceless family members, historians, forensic anthropologists and others, contained the names -- not estimates, names - of 114, 266 victims of the Franco repression.
- Garzón requested death records from Church and State - I am unclear about whether any were ever turned over to him.
- After complaints he was out of bounds and in direct opposition to the 1977 Ley de Amnistía (Amnesty Law), Garzón dropped the case, essentially turning the task over to regional government authorities (November 2008).
- Several ultra-right wing groups (Manos Limpias, FE de las JONS) filed "complaints" in the Supreme Court over Garzón's alleged breach of the law.
- The Court refused to dismiss the claims made by the above groups. Incidentally, there are several personal and political conflicts of interest between Supreme Court justices and Baltasar Garzón. As an example, in one case, we are talking about a judge who signed a petition against the Law of Historical Memory.
Whether we like it or not, Baltasar Garzón is the closest thing Spain has to the face of justice. If he goes on trial, the charge will technically be "prevarication" -- an instance of deliberate over-reaching of jurisdiction. Yet what ought to be clear to everyone observing this case is that the unspoken issue on trial here will really be Garzón's decision to pursue crimes of the Francoist repression as "crimes against humanity." Garzón's "auto" -- much more severe and damning than the documents that evolved into the Law of Historical Memory -- means, for some, not just a vague sort of "questioning of the past" or staining of an inheritance. The auto marks a contestation of the entire transitional process and those charted with writing it. The elephant in the room is no longer the decades-long silence about Franco-era crimes; what Garzón messed with is the foundation on which Spain's young democracy lies.
Leer más aquí en este reportaje detallado ("La memoria devora al juez Garzón") y en esta nota editorial de nuestro blog amigo La memoria viva