Spain court rules judge Garzon may have exceeded authority in Franco probe

[JURIST] A Spanish Supreme Court [official website] judge ruled on Thursday that National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] may have exceeded his jurisdictional authority when he launched an investigation [JURIST report] into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]. In October 2008, Garzon ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain, and ordered government agencies and the mayors of four cities to produce the names of people buried in mass graves in order to assemble a definitive national registry, despite a 1977 amnesty law. The Supreme Court allowed the investigation [JURIST report] into Garzon's actions as a result of a complaint filed by Manos Limpias [group website, in Spanish], a union of public servants in Spain, which alleged that Garzon acted without jurisdiction in violation of Penal Code Article 446 [text, in Spanish] when he began his probe into the crimes committed by the Franco regime. A five-judge panel of the Supreme court will now decide whether to uphold the court's ruling [El Pais report], which could lead to formal charges. If charged and convicted, Garzon could face disbarment. Garzon maintains that he acted within the bounds of the law and appropriately applied the law at all times.

Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] extensively in the past to bring several high-profile cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives]. Last week, Garzon announced he will begin an inquiry into the suspected torture and ill-treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The Obama administration has not responded to Garzon's questions regarding the open investigation of detainee abuses at the facility. Garzon's inquiry has focused on Spanish citizen and ex-Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Abderraman Hamed [CNN report], and three others whom Garzon has said have significant connections with Spain. The domestic focus is due to recently passed laws [JURIST report] that limit the use of universal jurisdiction to offenses committed by or against Spaniards, or where the perpetrators are in Spain.

 

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