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GARZON case before UNHRC - Spain asked to respond on merits
GARZON V SPAIN: UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE ASKS SPANISH GOVERNMENT TO ANSWER JUDGE GARZON'S COMPLAINT

Helen Duffy. Human Rights in Practice

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has asked the government of Spain to respond to a complaint lodged by Baltasar Garzon, former judge of the Spanish Audiencia Nacional. The complaint concerns a series of arbitrary criminal investigations and prosecutions lodged against Judge Garzon with a view to ensuring his removal from judicial office, which brought to an end Judge Garzon's long and distinguished judicial career. Among the many cases in which he had authorized investigative steps were an investigation into crimes against humanity committed during Spain's Franco era, which remain shrouded in impunity to the present day, and corruption at high levels in the ruling Partido Popular. He was criminally prosecuted for these judicial decisions. At the same time a third case which had been shelved on two occasions was also reopened, and shelved again immediately after his conviction (on the basis that it was barred by the statutes of limitation, a fact clearly known by the investigating judge at the time).

The criminal cases against Judge Garzon related exclusively to his interpretation and application of the law. As such, they represent a flagrant violation of the principle of judicial independence underpinning the ICCPR and international human rights law, and violate multiple rights under the Covenant. Although in one case, after years of investigation, suspension and prosecution he was acquitted, and in the other he was convicted, the violations of his rights, and the chilling effect on judicial independence, are not dependent on the outcome of a criminal case.

Judge Garzon's complaint to the Committee, presented on his behalf by Human Rights in Practice, is supported by an array of high level international experts who submitted joint expert opinions. The list of these witnesses appears below. The expert opinions address a range of issues of relevance to the Committee's determination of the case including: a) international standards on judicial independence that underpin the case; b) the impermissibility of amnesty laws and statutes of limitations under international law and practice, in line with Judge Garzon's findings and c) the unprecedented interpretation of the Spanish Malfeasance law (Ley de Prevaricacion) adopted in his case.

Despite the notoriety of Judge Garzon's case, which has been widely criticized internationally, he has had no recognition from the Spanish state, no remedy and there has been no attempt to ensure that judicial independence is safeguarded for the future. It is on this basis that Judge Garzon decided to pursue his claim before the Human Rights Committee earlier this year. The Spanish state is required to respond within a timeframe of six months.

LIST OF WITNESSES WHO HAVE SUBMITTED THEIR EXPERT OPINIONS WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THIS CASE:

- Dr. Mohammaed Ayat
- Prof. Tim McCormack
- Prof. Juan Mendez
- Prof. Pedro Nikken
- Prof. Naomi Roht-Arriaza
- Judge Eugenio Raul Zaffaroni
- Prof. Carlos Ayala
- Judge Azhar Cachalia
- Leandro Despouy
- Frank William La Rue
- Prof. Manfred Nowak
- Wilder Taylor
- Prof. Araceli Manjon-Cabeza Olmeda