Garzon Going Off the Bench
In Madrid, Spain, a champion of human rights faces charges which border on criminal. Baltasar Garzon is a world famous human rights crusader in Spain who gained much fame and notoriety for his attempts to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for his crimes in the 1990s. Now, after dedicating much of his life and career to the service of his people, Garzon has been barred from his office and the practice of law for eleven years for the abuse of the judicial powers given to him by the state and the people. A Madrid Court ruled today Baltasar Garzon is guilty of the authorization of the illegal recording of defense lawyers’ conversations.
The lawyer, who just recently turned 55 years old, was facing three cases that he felt were linked to his various investigations uncovering human abuse, political corruption, and other crimes. So far, Garzon has amassed several supporters many of whom have been victims of Spain’s right wing dictatorship, which held the ruling power in Spain until the late 1970’s. Another supporter is a representative of a human rights group based out of Argentina. All of his supports look at Garzon and see him as a hero.
According to the details outlined in the case, Garzon, who had managed to attain the rank of High Court judge, has been hit with several allegations that involve Garzon authorizing the police to make audio recordings of suspected criminals while in private consultation with their attorney’s, which is illegal. All of the three cases brought up against him are private cases, meaning that the accusations came from and were directly represented by individuals and organizations, rather than by the state. Garzon has continuously dismissed the charges and accusations, and the District Attorney has been adamant that the charges against Garzon be dropped.
Garzon is a local legend at home for his involvement and leadership in the investigation into the activities of various death squads which were run by the Socialist government in the 1980s. These death squads were used in conflict against the Basque regional separatists. This investigation is considered by many to be the driving force behind the center right’s win in the Spanish elections of 1996.
He has also attracted critics, who have accused him of seeking the limelight with high-profile international cases involving prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and victims who disappeared during the 1970s dictatorship in Argentina.
Garzon is also accused of violating an amnesty law by ordering an investigation into the killing of tens of thousands of civilians during the four-decade dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.
A number of international lawyers, human rights organizations and left-wing artists, including Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, have come out in support of Garzon.
Garzon’s attempt to extradite Pinochet from Britain in 1998 to face charges of human rights abuses following the dictator’s 1973 coup in Chile set a precedent for the principle that crimes against humanity can be investigated anywhere.