For civil libertarians, there are few heroes who can match Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 and later worked to identify human rights violations committed during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. He will be the first recipient of ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. I will have the honor of serving as the interviewer of Judge Garzón at the award luncheon on Saturday, May 14th, and to explore his views of contemporary civil liberties issues as well as his famous career.
The $100,000 award will be awarded annually and this is an impressive start for the new award.
Judge Garzón is a personal hero for his pursuit of justice for the victims of Pinochet. He is coming at a time when civil libertarians in this country are in deep need for moral support. We have a president who has blocked torture prosecutions by Bush officials, continued military tribunals, and expanded on a host of controversial Bush policies in the national security area.
Judge Garzón served on Spain’s central criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional and became an international figure in his pursuit of both terrorists and war criminals. His legacy includes investigations that led to the conviction of a government minister as the head of the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL), a state terrorist group. He has also pursued terrorist organizations like ETA. His most famous case led to the international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean president, General Augusto Pinochet.
Garzón himself was indicted in April 2010 for exceeding his authority when investigating crimes committed by the Franco regime that were included in a controversial amnesty. While suspended, he continued his work as a consultant at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I am currently unfamiliar with the details of the allegations against the judge, but will likely explore the case with him in our interview.
The event will be held on Saturday, May 14th with the luncheon from 12:00 – 2:00 pm at the Kimmel Center (60 Washington Square South, New York). (Tickets: http://www.ALBA-VALB.org or 212-674-5398).
ALBA is a non-profit educational organization promoting public awareness of that war and its historical, political, artistic and biographical significance. The Puffin Foundation promotes artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations often excluded from mainstream organizations.
The first ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism will be presented on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at the Kimmel Center at 60 Washington Square South, in New York City.
Here is the press release for the event: ALBA-Press-Release-on-Event-May-14
15 thoughts on “Baltasar Garzón To Receive Human Rights Award and Speak in New York”
Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón on Holding Torturers Accountable, Why He Opposes the Killing of Osama bin Laden, and His Threatened Ouster from the Bench
Democracy Now, 5/12/2011
Citing the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has used the Spanish courts to investigate cases of torture, war crimes and other offenses around the world. In 1998, he ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, a move that led to Pinochet’s arrest and detention in Britain. In 2003, Garzón indicted Osama bin Laden and dozens of other members of al-Qaeda. Garzón later attempted to indict six high-ranking members of the Bush administration for their role in authorizing torture at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay and overseas, before the case was eventually dropped under U.S. pressure. While Garzón has long been one of the world’s most feared judges, he is now facing his own legal battle. Last year he was indicted for exceeding his authority for launching an investigation into the disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Garzón was suspended as a judge in May 2010 and is facing three separate trials.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re joined now by the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, perhaps one of the world’s most famous judges. Citing the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, Garzón has used the Spanish courts to investigate cases of torture, war crimes and other offenses around the world.
In 1998, he ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, a move that had led to Pinochet’s arrest and detention in Britain for 18 months.
In 2003, Garzón indicted Osama bin Laden and dozens of other members of al-Qaeda. The indictment led to Europe’s biggest trial of alleged al-Qaeda operatives. Eighteen were eventually found guilty.
Garzón also led the case against Argentine ex-naval officer Adolfo Scilingo for crimes committed during Argentina’s Dirty War. Scilingo is now serving a 640-year sentence.
Garzón attempted to indict six high-ranking members of the Bush administration, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for their role in authorizing torture at Guantánamo and overseas. The case was eventually dropped. We now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, that the Bush administration privately pressured the Spanish government to drop the prosecution.
AMY GOODMAN: While Judge Garzón has long been one of the world’s most feared judges, he is now facing his own legal battle. Thirteen months ago, he was indicted for exceeding his authority for launching an investigation into the disappearance of more than 100,000 Spanish civilians at the hands of supporters of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Garzón was suspended as a judge in May 2010 and is facing three separate trials.
The attack on Garzón has been widely criticized by human rights defenders. Lotte Leicht of Human Rights Watch said, quote, “Garzón sought justice for victims of human rights abuses abroad and now he’s being punished for trying to do the same at home. The decision leaves Spain and Europe open to the charge of double standard.”
Judge Baltasar Garzón is here in New York this week to receive the first Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives/Puffin Foundation Award for Human Rights Activism. He flew in from Spain last night, joins us in the studio today.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: Good Morning. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: And thank you to Tony Geist for translating.
Judge Garzón, let’s start with the latest news: the assassination of Osama bin Laden. You have condemned this. Why?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: [translated] Any person who leads a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda is obviously a target. Under the rule of law, justice should be sought by legal means. According to the information we have, he could well have been arrested and brought to trial for his crimes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet he was assassinated. Talk about the example you believe this sets.
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: [translated] According to international law, the murder or the assassination of bin Laden was not the appropriate solution. Clearly, from the information we have, it’s an undefined situation, given the state of conflict between the United States and al-Qaeda.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I wanted to ask you about the case, particular case, that you have been now indicted for, specifically overreaching your authority, supposedly, in terms of the investigation into the civilian deaths under the Franco regime. You prosecuted similar cases, where amnesties had been declared, in Argentina and Chile, and your government had no problem with that. But now, when you challenge the amnesty that was supposedly granted to the perpetrators of the Franco atrocities, suddenly the government has problems with your methods?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: Yeah. [translated] This is the paradox and the irony of a situation in which Spain has been a pioneer in the application of universal jurisdiction. Yet, when it actually comes to investigating the case and the facts of the case in Spain, the country denies access to the facts and puts the judge himself on trial. It is the obligation of a judge to investigate the cases and to search for truth, justice and reparation for the victims of these crimes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the particular powers of a judge in Spain that may differ from what we here in the United States understand as a judge’s power, that the judges in Spain have both a sort of prosecutorial as well as a judgment aspect to their responsibilities, could you explain that?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: Yes. [translated] Judges in Spain are a combination of prosecutor, investigator and judge.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the WikiLeaks revelations. In Spain, there’s a lot of attention, of the documents, the U.S. government cables that have come out, about U.S. interference with the judiciary in Spain. One of the WikiLeaks cables was signed by Edward Aguirre, who is the—President Bush’s ambassador to Spain, who met with you. And he was concerned about a number of issues, and the U.S. has been concerned about the case in which—you opened against six former Bush administration officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for torture at Guantánamo. Explain this case and why it has now been dropped.
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: [translated] In Spain, opened two procedures against—in the Guantánamo case: a general case against—regarding those six people and another specific case in four cases of torture. They were each in separate courts. The case of the four specific cases of torture is in his court, and it’s gone forward, although without specific indictments against particular individuals. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, they have requested that the United States answer whether they are following up, investigating that case, or not. And if not, we’ll take it to the next step. It’s quite clear that they’re crimes against humanity, cases of torture, and therefore the government is obliged, under universal jurisdiction, to investigate them.
AMY GOODMAN: The ambassador in the document, in the WikiLeaks cable, said you have an anti-American streak. Your response?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZÓN: No, you know, no, I don’t. Enemy against the United States, no. I think that is the justice, only justice, as the torture is a universal crime, is necessary to investigate. Only this.
Thanks for the link to an interesting interview with Judge Garzon. Also on the Democracy Now website is an excellent interview with Glenn Greenwald on the differences in reporting the Wikileaks story between the British press and the American press. The British press is covering the substance of the revelations, while the American press has totally bought into the “Evil Wikileaks” scenario promoted by the U.S. government and is doing very little coverage of the actual story. Good stuff, newsdude85!
Hey all, Garzon was on Democracy Now this morning for a lengthy interview. He spoke about bin Laden, universal jurisdiction and his own current legal troubles. Really great interview, guy’s got a brilliant mind: http://is.gd/r8VzFX
Prof. Turley. I wish I could be there. Please convey to Judge Garzon my deepest personal regard. Thank you.
When will the Indictments for Bush et al be prepared…. -Anonymously Yours
Yes. That’s the burning question…
When will the Indictments for Bush et al be prepared….
I have tried several sources and have not found any info later than Sept.,2009- the Andy Worthington quote above. The Wikipedia article titled “Bush Six” begins with several caveats about its need for further info and better organization.
Judge Garzon has been a busy man over the years with several major investigations and prosecutions, as well as charges against himself to deal with. It’s entirely possible that he has had to put the “Bush Six” case aside while he deals with more pressing concerns. This is pure conjecture on my part- I don’t know the answer. That’s why I hope Prof. Turley will ask him about this case.
I thought the case was suspended. Didn’t the Wikileaks documents disclose an American attempt to convince the Spanish government that their investigation was unnecessary?
It’s always nice when works that are actually important get recognized. Good on all involved.
From the Wikipedia article, “Baltasar Garzon”:
(Under the subheading, “The Bush Six”)
“On 29 April,2009 Garzon opened an investigation into an alleged “systematic programme” of torture at Guantanamo Bay, following accusations by four former prisoners. According to Andy Worthington, writing in Huffington Post, Spanish newspaper Publico reported in September,2009 that Garzon was proceeding to the next phase of his investigation.”
Perhaps Prof. Turley will ask Judge Garzon where the case stands today and where it goes from here.
Who is his clothier? I hope his shoes are better than his coat.
Exciting news. Can we ask him to reopen the indictment of the Bush torture crowd in Spain?
I wish I could be there.
Congratulations Prof. Turley and Judge Garzón.
I wonder why he has that smirk on his face.
Congrats to both Garzón & Professor Turley.
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