Authorities in Spain have launched proceedings to suspend the notorious investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzón. The ostensible reason for the move is his investigation into the fate of 114,000 people who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. The public prosecutor’s office says Garzón had no authority to conduct the investigation because of a 1977 amnesty law. But Garzón says the disappearances must be considered crimes against humanity, and therefore not covered by any amnesty.
Baltasar Garzón gained an international reputation through his efforts to have former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet extradited to Spain. If Spain’s best known judge is found guilty of exceeding his authority, he could be removed from office for 20 years. (Radio Netherlands, Feb. 10)
The move comes just as Garzón opened a formal criminal investigation of former White House attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee and other Bush administration officials for their role in authorizing torture at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Garzón’s inquiry will be the first formal examination of alleged criminal activity that could lead to a number of US officials being charged with violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, both of which have been signed by the United States and ratified by the US Senate.