Shoot the Messenger?
Contributions by: Richard Barker
Judge Baltasar Garzon achieved international prestige in 1998 when he pursued the perpetrators of crimes committed in Argentina against Spanish citizens and began proceedings for the arrest of the Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. But, when Garzon transferred his attention to his Spanish homeland, he was put on trial for opening an investigation into crimes committed by Francoists. As a result, in 2012, he found himself on the point of being expelled from the judiciary. The Garzon case is neither so absurd nor so difficult to understand if the record of the Spanish judiciary is examined through the prism of a series of representative cases since the transition to democracy. Key to this examination is the way the judiciary has dealt with those who have investigated cases of people murdered by the military rebels from July 1936 onwards. This book relates 13 judicial cases that took place between 1981 and 2012. They range from the banning of the documentary film Rocio by Fernando Ruiz Vergara, because it named the person responsible for one of the massacres in southwest Spain, to the recent trial of Judge Garzon. The judicial outcome in each case reflected the prejudices and ideology of the judge in charge. The Francoist repression still constitutes a dead weight in Spanish politics as heavy as the gravestone that covers the remains of the dictator in the Valle de los Caidos. The nature of the transition from autocracy to democracy has made it difficult to overcome a black past that not even the post-Franco democratic governments (Rodriguez Zapatero's "memory" policy included) have dared confront. The potential defrocking of Judge Garzon puts the Spanish polity/judiciary back in the realm of Franco's end-of-year message on December 30, 1969, with what became the nautical catch-phrase of his twilight years: "all is lashed down and well lashed down" ("todo ha quedado atado, y bien atado").
Publication Date: 3/18/2013