Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Judge On Trial....Manos Limpias Versus Garzón

Spain's most famous judge, Baltasar Garzón, is facing the possibility of having to appear at the other end of the court following the acceptance of a case presented against him. He is accused of prevaricación, an offence which I'm unsure how to translate directly into English but which seems to come down to the deliberate issuing of unjust resolutions. The case has been presented by an organisation known as Manos Limpias, which as the name suggests likes to present itself as fighting against corruption in public life. They have brought the case against Garzón over his unsuccessful attempts to take forward a judicial case concerning the victims of Franco's repression and the thousands of bodies that continue to lie in unmarked roadside graves around the country.

Manos Limpias is in reality an extreme right pseudo trade union which dedicates almost all of its resources and time to clogging up the Spanish courts with a series of cases brought against figures associated with the left or regional nationalist causes. Its leader used to be part of the leadership of the Francoist Fuerza Nueva and it's hardly surprising in this context that they would take offence at Garzon's efforts. This is not the first time they have tried to get Garzón either, far from it. Other targets of the organisation have included Barcelona footballer Samuel Eto'o, Guardia Civil officers who have revealed their homosexuality and last but not least, childrens TV favourites Los Lunnis. I'm not making any of this up.

Most of the cases brought by Manos Limpias don't get very far. However, in this instance it seems that the judge leading the panel studying the accusation against Garzón is an honorary patron of the DENAES (the Foundation for the Defence of the Spanish Nation), another far right organisation which has been critical of any attempts to re-examine the events of the Civil War and the dictatorship. So the case has been put in motion, although it seems that the state prosecution service will not be lending their support to it.

Whether or not Garzón had the right to take the case as far as he did is a controversial legal issue, eventually it was ruled that he was not competent to proceed with the case. Even though his fellow judges ganged up against him to more or less bring an end to the issue, there were still a significant minority of judges who voted against this move. The real target in this case is not necessarily just Garzón, it is a message to any judge who might get the idea that crimes committed under Spain's dictatorship are as worthy of judicial investigation as those committed in countries far from home. That those who attempt to lift the lid on what happened during that period should be subjected to judicial persecution is surreal.


Anonymous said...

I dont know anything about the group, but just because they are a far right group, doesn't mean that they are wrong on this one. Garzon has stepped way beyond the bounds of his authority, its about time someone called him on it.

Graeme said...

Their political motivation is hardly an incidental detail, all of the cases they bring are a reflection of this. You write as if it is evident that Garzón has stepped over the line, yet a few of the regional judges to whom the case has been referred have already sent it back on the grounds that they do not consider themselves competent to deal with it. All of which means that the issue of who has the right to investigate is far from clear - except of course to Manos Limpias and some other judges who consider that the issue of thousands of corpses dumped by the roadside should never be addressed.