A warning to any international lawyers who try and address history’s wrongs. You will pay a price, usually by those most closely associated with the original sin:
The crowd gathered outside Madrid’s national court was loud and angry. “The world has been turned upside down,” they cried. “The fascists are judging the judge!” Some carried photographs of long-dead relatives, killed by rightwing death squads in Spain‘s brutal civil war in the 1930s. Others bore placards bearing the name of the hero they wanted to save, the controversial “superjudge” Baltasar GarzÃ³n.
Pedro Romero de Castilla carried a picture of his grandfather, Wenceslao – a former stationmaster taken away from his home in the western city of Mérida and shot by a death squad at the service of GeneralÃsimo Francisco Franco‘s rightwing military rebels 74 years ago. The family have never found his body.
GarzÃ³n, he explained, had dared to investigate the atrocities of 36 years of Franco’s dictatorship and now, as a result, he faces trial for allegedly abusing his powers. “My grandfather’s case is one that GarzÃ³n wanted to investigate,” he said. “He’s a brave and intelligent judge, but now the right are out to get him.”
Police tried to herd Romero and his fellow protesters away, but 400 of them marched to nearby Calle de Génova and brought traffic to a standstill. It was a taste of the anger being expressed daily across Spain, with tens of thousands of people due to march in the country last night.
GarzÃ³n still works at the national court, stepping out of his bomb-proof car every morning and climbing the courthouse steps to deal with cases involving terrorism, political corruption, international drug-trafficking and human rights cases. Soon, however, the hyperactive investigating magistrate who shot to global fame by ordering the 1998 arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London will have his cases taken away from him.
Just a hundred yards across a square, stern-faced judges at the supreme court plan to suspend GarzÃ³n next month. The temporary suspension will last while they decide whether he deliberately ran roughshod over Spain’s laws by opening an investigation into the deaths of 113,000 Spaniards executed by Franco’s men during and after the civil war. If they find him guilty – and there are signs that they intend to – his career will be over.