Spain’s leading human rights judge, Baltasar Garzon, has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights, after a Spanish court expelled him for investigating Spanish civil war crimes.
Garzon’s legal team, Interights, said Friday that Garzon was challenging the lawfulness of the criminal prosecution against him for having opened an investigation into serious crimes committed during the era of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
Spain’s National Court has said Garzon was indicted for having overstepped his jurisdiction with the investigation, as an amnesty had been granted to those involved in Franco-era killings two years after Franco’s death in 1975.
Garzon is renowned for having used the principle of universal jurisdiction to bring cases against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Interights argues that Spain’s case against Garzon represents a threat to the independence of judges and their role in ensuring accountability for alleged widespread and systematic crimes.
If convicted in the case in Spain, Garzon would be suspended from his job as a judge for up to 20 years.
The case was brought against Garzon by right-wing groups who claimed the investigation violated the 1977 amnesty given to Franco’s supporters over the death and disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians.
Garzon and Interights have argued that such crimes have no statute of limitations and are not covered by amnesties.
Judge Garzon faces two other unrelated trials, one for allegedly wiretapping and another for suspected corruption.