All world-aware citizens outside of Spain must be stunned by the news that Judge Baltasar Garzón, who pursued state-sponsored terrorists from Augusto Pinochet to Argentina to the U.S.'s Guantánamo, is in danger of suspension because he has dared investigate the state crimes of Franco and his followers in his own country.
In case you missed this -- I know, the world is full of crises, and it's hard to keep up on all of them -- here's the background: As an administrative magistrate, it is Garzón's job to investigate supposed crimes to determine whether there is cause for trial, and if so, to determine (a) if such a trial would be in his jurisdiction and (b) if not, to remand it to the appropriate court. That is, part of his job is to do what a grand jury does in the U.S. system, i.e., first decide whether there is a case.
The Audiencia Nacional, the penal court with jurisdiction over the entire country, is served by six investigative judges, but -- presumably because of Garzón's reputation and the attention he gets in the media -- many of the most ticklish issues end up in Section No. 5, Garzón's. In the course of his career he has taken on some of the most powerful and dangerous groups in the country. He was, very briefly (in 1993), part of Socialist goverment of Felipe González, and is generally supposed to have Socialist Party leanings, but he returned to the bench and led an extremely damaging inquiry of that government in 1998, for state terrorist tactics against ETA (a secret police group pretending to be independent activists were assassinating ETA members) This was not out of any fondness for ETA, but (he maintains) out of a very strict and uncompromising devotion to legality. He has in fact been one of the most aggressive judges pursuing ETA itself -- he has been creative (in the vew of some, too creative) in his interpretations of laws to isolate that terrorist organization from its civilian support network. And he has taken on other notable foes, including the U.S. government of George W. Bush, arguing the illegality of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Lately, as though he didn't have enough enemies, he has been very aggressive in pursuing political corruption in deeply entrenched, very well-connected Partido Popular (Aznar's party, in power in several autonomous communities and likely to return to national power).
But back to the Franco investigation. Groups of survivors of people killed in the military rebellion and civil war of 1936-39 or by the Franco military regime after the war petitioned him to order the opening of the unmarked graves to determine identities of the dead and causes of death. He began his preliminary investigation, summoning hitherto secret records of the armed forces and of the Catholic Church, which knew were many of the bones were buried but was not at all interested in telling. For the Church the only martyrs worth remembering are those who were Catholic, killed by Godless Communists, Socialists or anarchists -- there were many of these, but they have been well remembered.
The Church feared that mentioning all those Godless Republicans killed by Catholics would open up old wounds; the survivors said that those wounds were already open, and the only way to close them was to find out the truth. In any case, and whatever the political or psycological consequences, Garzón saw his job as finding out that truth, and so subpenoed documents and witnesses. And now an investigative judge of Spain's Supreme Court, Luciano Varela Castro, has accepted complaints against Garzón by an ultra right outfit of ex-government functionaries, Manos Limpias, and -- this is especially startling -- the Falange, the Fascist party that backed Franco. The charge is that Garzón knowingly exceeded his authority (in Spain that's called prevaricación) by investigating the supposed crimes of Franco, because the Spanish courts had declared a Law of Amnesty -- in 1977, that is, just two years after Franco's death, when Spanish judges were still all Franco appointees.
It was all very well for Garzón or another internationally-minded judge to decide that human rights violations do not prescribe in Uganda or Chile or Argentina or Rwanda or Bosnia. But in Spain a Franco-ist self-amnesty must be respected, says the Falange and at least one judge of the Supreme Court.
It's not over yet, and not every judge on the Supreme Court agrees with Varela Castro, but it looks bad for Spain's -- and possibly the world's -- most famous judge. This is just another sign that the Spanish Civil War is not yet over.