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Baltasar Garzón is vetoed at the Human Rights Film Festival in Barcelona for his cover-up of torture while at the National Court

Every spring Barcelona hosts the Human Rights Film Festival.

This year, the 10th Festival takes place between the16th and the 26th May and, according to the initial programme, it was to be presented by Baltasar Garzón Real and would include the screening of the documentary film "Black Ink" concerning the Garzón case and Francoist crimes.

However, faced with persistent complaints from groups such as the Co-ordinating Committee for the Prevention and Denunciation of Torture (Coordinadora per la Prevenció i Denúncia de la Tortura), the organisers of the contest decided not to go ahead with this programme and have vetoed the participation of the former judge of the National Court.

Baltasar Garzón Real

The Human Rights Film Festival takes place every year in Barcelona, New York and Paris and it was announced that the 2013 edition would open in the Gerona cinemas with the screening of the documentary by Sebastian Arabia, "Black Ink", with the "special appearance of the main character in the film- the former judge Baltasar Garzón- internationally recognised for his struggle against human rights violations".

The invitation to the former judge caused shock and resulted in complaints from numerous human rights and civil liberties organisations, who could not understand how a Festival for human rights, which had been recognised by UNESCO through the International Coalition of Cities Against Racism, could admit someone with a record such as that of Baltasar Garzón.

The judge is not held in high esteem in Catalunya, where he is remembered above all for activities such as the 1992 operation against pro- independence militants - also known as the "Garzón Operation" - or the persecution, detention and torture of youths of Torá (a municipality in the province of Lleida, Catalonia), in 2003.

The cases of torture, condemned by the United Nations and the Council of Europe and which took place against individuals in the legal custody of the Central Investigating Court over which he presided as judge, are not the only cases which put in doubt the public image of Baltasar Garzón as a human rights defender.

On 16th February 2012, a number of Colombian organizations from areas of armed conflict, consisting of various communities of victims of crimes committed by the State through paramilitary operations or by its own security forces, sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos protesting against the position given to Baltasar Garzón as adviser to the MAPP/OEA (the Organisation of American States Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia).

In this letter, these communities of serious human rights violations, objected to the illegal measures which the former Judge Baltasar Garzón used "to carry out investigations or prosecutions, as also used by the DAS and the current Colombian security and 'intelligence' bodies.

They also stated: "It is a matter of great sadness to us that, from its inception, Baltasar Garzón endorsed the process of paramilitary re-engineering known as 'demobilisation' implemented within the democratic security policies of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, claiming that it was a model of justice"

"His role as adviser in the peace process within the Santos administration did not redirect the process. Today paramilitarism, together with state security forces, is conducting the territorial and social control linked to the development of agri-business, infrastructure works and the activities of the extractive industry. This terrible situation goes on because of the inaction of Baltasar Garzón within the peace process who, in his recommendations, failed to propose that the victims have access to truth, justice and reparation."

In addition to this is the well-known role played by the former judge in the design and defence of the so-called "Law of Justice and Peace" in Colombia, a law of impunity - principally for serious human rights crimes committed by the paramilitary.

In Spain, the violation of the right to a defence committed when he ordered the recording of conversations between lawyers and their clients, resulted in his conviction by the Supreme Court and his subsequent removal from the judiciary.

In the case brought against Garzón known as the "New York payments" he was charged with bribery for soliciting and receiving significant funds from Spanish companies and banks, whilst in judicial office, to organise conferences and events in New York, where the judge spent a sabbatical year between 2005 and 2006. The evidence in the case confirms the sums received by the Judge and that on his return from New York, he went on to close a case filed with the National Court against the President of the Bank of Santander, Emilio Botín, instead of recusing himself from the case given his relationship with the President of the Bank and the fact that he had received funds from the President to finance several courses and conferences during his sabbatical year.

The case against Garzón was ultimately closed by the Supreme Court on February 13th, 2012 following the procedural machinations carried out as part of the legal strategy for the defence of Emilio Botin, who was involved in the payment of funds to the judge. A conviction of the judge for these acts would inevitably have had criminal repercussions for Emilio Botín, so it was important from the perspective of the defence of the latter that these acts should be declared time-barred. A parallel complaint before the Supreme Court against Emilio Botín also ended with the closing of that case by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court on January 4th, 2012, on the grounds that the case was time-barred.

During his stay in New York, Baltasar Garzón attempted to involve the US intelligence community in an international coordination effort against terrorism, submitting a proposal on this topic entitled "Terrorism and Security: Coordination and Cooperation".

Amongst those contacted by the judge to take part in the debates he organised were the United States Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte, known mostly for his participation in the "Iran-Contras" affair and his role in the campaigns of extermination carried out by the Argentinian army and the CIA in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s.

This has been confirmed by the documentary evidence submitted in the "New York payments" case by the companies involved in financing the Judge's activities, primarily CEPSA (Compañía Española de Petróleos S.A.) and Banco Santander S.A.

Returning to the 10th Human Rights Film Festival in Barcelona, numerous groups wrote to the Festival organisers to demand explanations for their decision and the withdrawal of Garzón as presenter of the event, maintaining that his presence was inappropriate in a competition with a human rights focus.

Specifically, the Catalonian Co-ordinating Committee for the Prevention and Denunciation of Torture wrote a letter to Toni Navarro, the director of the Festival on 30th April 2013, asking the organisers to reconsider their invitation to the former judge to inaugurate the opening session of the competition and the screening of the documentary in which Garzón is the leading protagonist and which forms part of the judge's public relations campaign.

The Catalonian Co-ordinating Committee against Torture is made up of 14 groups who work in human rights and in particular, work to denounce and prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It unites Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), Alerta solidaria (Alert Solidarity) Centro EXIL, the Catalonian Association for the Defence of Human Rights (Asociación Catalana para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), the Association Memory Against Torture (Asociación Memoria Contra la Tortura), the Stop Rubber Bullets Association (Asociación Stop Balas de Goma), the General Workers Confederation (CGT), the Defence Commission of the Barcelona College of Lawyers, the Human Rights Commission of the Girona College of Lawyers, the Cornellá Coordinating Committee against Marginalisation, Justice and Peace (Justicia y Paz), the University of Barcelona Observatory on the Penal System and Human Rights, Rescue and SOS Racism Cataluña ( Rescate y SOS Racismo Cataluña).

In the letter the Co-ordinating Committee against Torture argued that, as torture and cruel treatment were among the unresolved matters of the human rights agenda in Spain, "it was remarkable that the inauguration of the conference... should be attended by former judge Baltasar Garzón, a person who has been challenged for many reasons by the great majority of human rights groups in Spain," including the fact that "[T]he judge presided over various cases against persons who were victims of torture and not only did nothing at all to investigate the facts but used the detainees' statements that had been obtained under torture to formulate criminal cases against them. This conduct amounts to concealment of torturers".

The letter also explained to the Festival organisers that "European Court of Human Rights of Strasbourg in 2004 found that the State of Spain was guilty for not investigating torture suffered by independence activists who were arrested in 1992 in the course of an operation named "Operation Garzón."

It adds that "[U]nfortuately torture was and is a reality here and the National Court and its judges had and have a particular responsibility, given the solitary confinement in which those arrested for crimes of terrorism were held. The former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr Theo Van Boven had already pointed out in his report on Spain in 2002 that holding detainees in incommunicado detention constitutes in itself a form of torture and affords the greatest opportunity to carry out torture with impunity"

It went on to state that "We are not in favour of legitimising individuals with high media profiles whose behaviour is not compatible with the objectives and essence of the Co-ordinating Committee for the Prevention and Denunciation of Torture, which has always denounced the sorry role that the judiciary have played in the eradication of torture".

As would be expected, the arguments from these entities were heeded by the organization who announced a few days before the beginning of the Festival that Baltasar Garzón would not be present at the 2013 event and nor would the documentary be screened at the Festival.

This change of plan has undoubtedly helped to avoid any loss of prestige by the Festival which this year has welcomed, among others, the Platform for those Affected by the Sub Prime mortgage crisis (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) and the Stop Rubber Bullets Collective.

However in the Cinema and Human Rights Cycle organised by Abycine and Amnesty International, a different position has been taken and the film "Black Ink" is scheduled to be screened on 5th June. We hope that they will also change their view.

According to Upcinema, the distributors of this film, this production of Off Cinema, includes among its protagonists Carlos Jiménez Villarejo (former anti-corruption prosecutor), Carlos Slepoy and José Antonio Martín Pallin (former Supreme Court prosecutor).

Carlos Jiménez Villarejo and José Antonio Martín Pallín are noteworthy for their intellectual contribution to and public moral support for the law known as the "Law of Memory", developed and passed by the previous Socialist Government as a means of socio-political containment of the problem of impunity in Spain and the crimes of Franco. None of the provisions of this law have any penal consequences and it fails to recognise in law the victims of the Franco regime, to the extent that it grants no more than archaeological significance to the remains of Republicans and those persons who were executed pursuant to the systematic political persecution implemented under Francoism.

These actions have served only to aggravate the problem, which is quite simply the result of the lack of ethical, moral and legal responsibility of the parliamentary political groups who supported the "Law of Historical Memory". The Law not only offers no legislative solution to the principal issues concerning the victims of Francoism but leaves the victims and their families in a position of utter defencelessness. Furthermore, it seeks to distance them from European history and from the solutions in this subject that were adopted by other countries who endured Fascist or National Socialist regimes.

Carlos Slepoy Prada, who according to the media is heading the case concerning Francoist crimes in Buenos Aires, vigorously opposed both publicly and within the legal proceedings, the arrest of the Argentinian Navy Captain, Adolfo Scilingo. (This is evidenced at the commencement of the investigation and later during the oral trial). The arrest of Adolfo Scilingo made it possible for the so-called "Argentinian" case in Spain to reach the stage of oral trial and to finally obtain a judgment. The opposition of Carlos Slepoy to the legal process was due to the fact that he was seeking to halt the testimony of Adolfo Scilingo with respect to the actions of the collaborators at the Navy Mechanics School (Escuela Mecánica de la Armada - ESMA), such as Juan Alberto Gasparini and others, an objective which he actively pursued until the end of the proceedings.

Throughout the duration of the proceedings, Carlos Slepoy opposed the representation and existence of Spanish victims of the Argentinian dictatorship, in an attempt to avoid the legal recognition of these victims and the consolidation of jurisdiction over this issue by the Spanish courts.

Once the judgment convicting Adolfo Scilingo for crimes against humanity had been issued, Slepoy announced that he would appeal the decision and went on to do so (see this appeal before the Spanish Supreme Court dated 12 January 2006 available at: His opposition to the application of the criminal classification of crimes against humanity in the Scilingo case is unambiguously reflected in the provisional and final indictments he filed in the case. He makes no reference to international law save for a passing allusion to "genocide", one of the grounds he uses (along with lawyers for other accusing parties in the trial) to appeal against the judgement for crimes against humanity.

Just as it was for Judge Baltasar Garzón during the investigation phase of the Argentinian case, his use of the criminal classification of genocide during the trial of Scilingo constituted, in strictly legal terms, an enormous risk for two principal reasons: the persecution and extermination of the opponents of the Argentinian Military Juntas and specifically those of Spanish origin were carried out for political motives which are not included in the definition of genocide and therefore the acts did not contain the necessary criminal elements of that crime; in addition there was no valid evidence at all that would allow for the conclusion that the military regime carried out executions motivated by reasons of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination or because the victims were members of a national group rather than a political one. The attempt to establish the existence of "genocide" as the term is used, amounts to concealment of the true motives for which the victims were persecuted and exterminated.

To maintain this position, as the legal team of Equipo Nizkor explained in their analysis, would have the result of depriving the classification of crimes against humanity of its substance and at the same time would preserve the impunity of those responsible for the crimes, given that it would be impossible to meet the elements required by law to establish the commission of genocide: the mens rea (the intent) and the specific actus reus.

In view of this, in April 2010 Radio Nizkor published an editorial as an explanatory note to press information about the criminal complaint submitted in Argentina and the statements made by Carlos Slepoy that "the relatives of the victims of the Francisco Franco's dictatorship will appear before the Argentinian courts in reliance on universal jurisdiction and will file a complaint alleging genocide in that country"

This note, prepared solely on the basis of judicial documents was published to address the moral obligation to properly inform the relatives and the associations of victims of the Francoist repression.

Yet again in this public relations exercise, we see the same protagonists who support the model of Spanish impunity of which so-called "Law of Memory" forms part; but in this year's Human Rights Film Festival in Barcelona they have not been able to mock the ethic which is inherent in the defence and promotion of human rights.

[Source: Radio Nizkor, 24 May13]

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