En: International Justice Tribune, no. 104
Publicado: el 21.4.10
Chilean judge supports Garzon
Published on : 21 April 2010 - 10:05am | By International Justice Tribune (RNW)
Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón is facing prosecution, accused of overreaching his judicial powers when investigating atrocities committed during and after the country’s 1936-39 civil war. Retired Chilean judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, who worked closely with Garzón when prosecuting late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, speaks of political games.
By José Zepeda
The charge against Garzón is based on a 1977 Amnesty Law. What do you think of this claim?
It is very clear that neither the 1977 Amnesty law nor statute of limitation can do justice to the terrible crimes related to the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of general Francisco Franco. People don’t like to talk about it, but it was a terrible dictatorship which resulted in a lot of victims.
The massive disappearances, many caused by ideological affiliations, are obviously not eligible for amnesty, nor are they covered by it. This is the norm of international and criminal law.
Have conservative forces in Spain influenced this decision?
Yes, this also happened in Chile. The most conservative forces had an interest in repression, as they were on the ideological side of Pinochet in Chile and on that of Franco in Spain. Generally, these people are opposed to progressive systems and judges, as they are against progressive jurisdiction such as universal jurisdiction.
How politicised is this case against Garzón?
In this case the jurisdiction is above the parties. I know Garzón very well: he is a brave man, very humane and compassionate. He follows his vocation as a judge, and he often faces the dilemma whether to investigate or not.
He has dared to do what no other judge has dared to do before. Investigating this issue is closer to humanism than to the political left or right. I think that politics has nothing to do with this, at least in regards to the investigations.
Garzón really faces the possibility that he will be tried.
Garzón is in a situation he doesn’t deserve. The reasons for him to take on this mission were reasons of justice, humanism and truth.
Some ask how one can investigate crimes where the people involved or responsible already died. Well, one of the missions of the judiciary is to seek the truth, and the truth in this case can only be found when one has the perseverance - that Garzón has shown - to investigate.
Furthermore, the judiciary has to give everyone what he or she deserves. Relatives of the victims have the right to find the bodies, and to know where the remains of their families are. This is a very complex issue, where powers behind the scene are playing games that go beyond punishing a judge who has arguably violated the law.
Were you discredited during your dealings with Pinochet?
Of course. I did not apply the prescribed amnesty under Pinochet. There was an Amnesty Law decree in 1978 that covered the worst crimes during the dictatorship, which took place between 1973 and 1978. I said that the Amnesty Law did not cover the forced disappearances.
Of course I was accused of misfeasance, but that is a matter of interpretation. I interpreted that the decree was not applicable to the kidnappings, which was what these forced disappearances actually were. They could not punish me for this interpretation.
Did the persecutions influence your decision to quit?
I was prosecuted by the Supreme Court, I suffered permanent accusations and investigations. I had to plea, I was accused of stealing money and sexual intimidation. They stopped short of charging me with drug trafficking or being a paedophile.
At a certain point my fellow Chilean judges started treating me the way the Spanish judges are treating Garzón now. By that time I was 66, I had been a judge for 26 years. I decided that I wanted to leave with my head held high, instead of being followed by the arms of fraud.
(Translation by Robin van Wechem)