Friday, May 14, 2010

Spanish board suspends justice Garzon

A Spanish judge famed for attempting to put on trial an ex-Chilean strongman as suspended from his post.

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary unanimously decided to suspend Baltasar Garzon over an alleged abuse of powers in 2008. Garzon faces trial over his attempted inquiry into atrocities during the era of the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Garzon would eventually drop the investigation due to Spain’s amnesty laws yet conservatives who claim that he’s attempting to “reopen old wounds” have hounded him.

The decision by the General Council may scuttle Garzon’s plans for a transfer to work at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In the meantime, Garzon faces two other trials of suspected abuse of authority, which have been denounced by his supporters in Spain.

Garzon is perhaps best known globally for his crusade against Augusto Pinochet starting in 1998 when he first issued an arrest warrant against him. Some Chileans who wished to see Pinochet tried for human rights abuses praised Garzon’s application of international law via the concept of universal jurisdiction:
Under Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile, from 1974 to 1990, as many as 30,000 people vanished or were killed for their political beliefs. Many were students, labor leaders, intellectuals and others considered to be leftist insurgents.

After 18 months, British authorities decided Pinochet was too frail to stand trial, and allowed him to go home to Chile. A Chilean judge ruled in 2004 that Pinochet was healthy enough to stand trial, but the former dictator died two years later at a Chilean military hospital at the age of 91.
The suspension was criticized by human rights groups including one Human Rights Watch official who told The Guardian that "Garzón helped to deliver justice for atrocity victims abroad and now he's being punished for trying to do the same thing at home."

Image- The Guardian
Online Sources- The Guardian, BBC News, Reuters, CNN

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