Rule of Law Prevails Over Spanish Human Rights Activist Judge

Rule of Law Prevails Over Spanish Human Rights Activist Judge

To some, Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain's Audencia Nacional is a hero for his work from the bench to address human rights violations. Aggressively applying the concept of universal jurisdiction, the judge reached across the globe to bring perpetrators to "justice" as defined by him.

However laudable the judge's stated goals, his methodology often trumped the rule of law, i.e., to Judge Garzón, the ends justified the means applied. For example, the judge investigated alleged human rights violations committed by one side in the Spanish Civil War despite his country's 1977 amnesty for all parties involved.

Judge Garzón's investigations appeared to be motivated in part by his political ideology. If the alleged perpetrators of human rights violations were considered right wing, the judge aggressively pursued them through universal jurisdiction.

On the other hand, if the perpetrators were considered left wing, the judge turned a blind eye to purported human rights violations, choosing to investigate the former while ignoring the latter even if the acts in question were committed by both sides, such as in the Spanish Civil War.

Judge Garzón has been disbarred unanimously by his country's Supreme Court and has lost his judgeship too. Why? To obtain evidence, Judge Garzón ordered illegal wiretaps of conversations between prisoners and their defense counsel. For a man who detested General Francisco Franco's regime, it's a wonder that Judge Garzón couldn't see how illegal wiretaps were better suited for such totalitarianism than Spain's current parliamentary constitutional monarchy.

Some contend that this disbarment action against Judge Garzón is a miscarriage of justice. To the contrary, it is upholding the rule of law against a man who saw fit to misuse judicial power.

If Judge Garzón is truly committed to the protection of fundamental human rights, there are plenty of governmental bodies and human rights NGOs where he can work to do so. One could make the argument that he should have obtained such employment in the first place rather than tarnish the judiciary and corrupt the rule of law as a judge.

Recommended Reading

Famous Spain judge convicted of misusing authority, Newsday (Feb. 9, 2012)

Baltasar Garzón, judge who pursued dictators, brought down by wiretapping, UK Guardian (Feb. 9, 2012)

Internationally Acclaimed Spanish Judge Disbarred, VOA (Feb. 9, 2012)