Monday, 21 March 2011

Listening to Judge Garzón: Escuchando al juez Garzón

SHOWING on Wednesday night at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester, as part of the ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Film Festival, is a screening of an interview with the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón. Judge Garzón is perhaps the most famous living Judge because of the part he played in 1998 in the detention in this country of the Chilean dictator General Pinochet after issuing an international arrest warrant on him for the torture of Spanish citizens. The Chilean Truth Commission (1990–91) report was the basis for the warrant, marking an unprecedented use of universal jurisdiction to attempt to try a former dictator for an international crime. Garzón's request for the extradition of Pinochet to Spain was later rejected by the then British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on health grounds.

Garzón also filed charges of genocide against Argentine military officers on the disappearance of Spanish citizens during Argentina's 1976-1983 dictatorship. Eventually Adolfo Scilingo and Miguel Angel Cavallo were prosecuted in separate cases. Scilingo was convicted and sentenced to over 1000 years incarceration for his crimes.

In October 2008, Garzón opened a controversial inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Nationalist government during the Spanish Civil War and the years that followed the war. This action was controversial because the offenses were nearly 70 years old, previous to the concept of crimes against humanity, and a 1977 general amnesty act barred any investigations related to criminal offenses with a political aim previous to 1976. In 2008 the inquiry was suspended. In September 2009, a trade union called "Manos Limpias" (Clean Hands) filed a lawsuit against Garzón alleging that Garzón had abused his judicial authority by opening the inquiry. Garzón denied any wrongdoing.

In April 2010, Garzón was indicted by the Spanish Supreme Court for prevarication for arbitrarily changing his juridical criteria to engineer the case in order to bypass the law limiting his jurisdiction. If convicted, he could be barred from his duties for 20 years. Garzón's indictment has been highly divisive within Spain and controversial abroad. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the indictment, and The New York Times published an editorial supporting him, whereas The Wall Street Journal condemned Garzón's proceedings in an editorial supporting the rule of law. There were public protests in Spain from left wing organizations supporting Garzón.

Wednesday night's black and white screening will take place at 8.40pm at the Cornerhouse cinema on Oxford Street, Manchester.

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