In Justice on trial I wrote about the trials and, in my humble opinion well deserved, tribulations of a Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón. At that time (18th February 2012) one charge of the three was still pending. Garzón was convicted of ordering illegal wiretaps and acquitted* of the judicial corruption. The last outstanding matter concerned his investigation in 2007 of alleged Francoists crimes in 1934-1939 despite the Amnesty law of 1977. In six to one decision the Supreme Court judges pronounced him not guilty. The six judges argued that “Garzón had been within his rights to test out new interpretations of what they called “expansive” international human rights laws.” But they all said, “he had been wrong to open the investigation. Spain’s 1977 amnesty law remains valid.” Further, they described the amnesty law as “one of the key elements of Spain’s peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy after General Franco’s death in 1975”.
Perhaps the ‘peaceful transition’, perhaps the fact that one of theirs did not get a pat on the back, upset the usual impartial arbiters of human rights such as The Guardian, the Communist Party of Great Britain -Marxist-Leninist (CPGB-ML)* and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). He is, naturally, the hero of the current Argentinean Government and was invited there to speak to the Congress. The Nobel Prize awaits.
The head of the Madrid regional government, Ms Esperanza Aguirre of the Partida Popular, welcomed the verdict and said, “Because the ends, and I have no doubt that Garzon’s ends were praiseworthy, the ends cannot justify the means and that is the basis of the rule of law.” The President of the ICJ, Pedro Nikken**, sees it differently, “The circumstances in which this conviction has been made cannot avoid being seen internationally as a punishment for Judge Garzón for investigating the crimes of the Francoists.”
I hope everybody can imagine what the other advocates of “the end justifies the means” philosophy, such as The Guardian, CPGB-ML and Amnesty International are saying. It may be of some interest that the results of Garzón’s investigation, which he passed on to provincial courts, named three dozen senior Francoist officials, all of whom were dead. Shouldn’t he had investigate Stalin, also dead, who killed almost as many Spanish communists as Franco?
There is no doubt that the Franco’s regime committed numerous crimes, exceeding quantitatively those committed by those on the loosing side. Amnesty laws are meant to heal and mostly serve their purpose in keeping the society intact, though they do not necessarily represent the (unachievable) ideal of blind justice. Thousands of jurists wrote about the problem and there is neither the point, nor time, nor space, nor erudition for repetition. The practical question here seems to be – can a judge with impunity ignore the laws of his country every time some other law, supposedly international, suits his prejudices better? Our common law judges of the activist bent simply “distinguish” away the inconvenient precedents. I feel that both they and Garzón are wrong, and I fear that they will bring the justice into disrepute. Then, perhaps the Marxist ideology is more important to them than any bourgeois chimera of “justice”.
**/ “The CPGB-ML is a young and growing party in Britain. It puts forward a consistently Marxist-Leninist, anti-imperialist, anti-social democratic political line.” CPGB-ML website.
***/ Venezuelan ex-judge and a law professor