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Baltasar Garzón: The Man Who Refuses Silence

Baltazar Garzón. Photo/Wikimedia

The Spanish Judge whose work triggered the investigation that nabbed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet back in 1998 believes that Spain could bring charges against six Bush Jr. administration officials for clearing the way for the use of torture during the Iraq war – but he is being blocked by charges making him the culprit.

On 17 January 2012, Al Jazeera reported that Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon had “gone on trial in the country’s Supreme Court on [three separate] charges of abusing judicial powers.

According to West Chester University history professor Lawrence Davidson, Spanish and US authorities want even the remotest possibility of charges against Bush Administration officials to go away – quietly. To this end Spain is attempting to silence “a very important truth-teller (who has) conducted a number of investigations into violations of international law against torture.”

The truth-teller is Baltasar Garzón Real, 57, the Spanish jurist who in 1998 obtained a request for the extradition from the UK of former Chilean president, General, Augusto Pinochet, for the alleged deaths and torture of Spanish citizens. The former dictator was undergoing medical treatment in London.

Garzón was indicted in April 2010 for exceeding his authority when investigating crimes committed by the Franco regime that were included in an amnesty, and suspended on 14 May 2010, pending trial. He has been given permission to work as a consultant at the International Criminal Court.

Garzon used the principle of universal jurisdiction to go after Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet back in 1998, and said in March 2009 that Spain could now use the same principle to bring charges against Bush Jr. officials.

He charged that, “At least four men who are Spanish citizens, and also former prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison, have accused the U.S. military of torturing them.”

It was at this point, Davidson claims, that the U .S. government appears to have placed Garzon in a category that would also include Wikileaks case figures, (Pfc. Bradley) Manning and impresario Julian) Assange – “the category of the dangerous truth-teller.”

Davidson notes that the U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 2009, Eduardo Aguirre, describes his actions (in a diplomatic cable made public by Wikileaks in 2010) in relation to the Garzon investigation as follows, “…behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear.”

Davidson says the significant word here is “disappear” for “there are two approaches to suppressing an unwanted truth. The first is to create a counter-story that makes the truth appear untrue. The second is to simply suppress all evidence, all references, all interest so that the particular truth just ‘disappears’.”

He declares that the U.S. ambassador, Eduardo Aguirre, “managed to get the cooperation of Spain’s Chief Prosecutor, Javier Zaragoza, who is quoted in another U.S. diplomatic cable (also made public by Wikileaks) to the effect that he had a plan to ‘embarrass’ Garzon into dropping his case against the Bush officials by misrepresenting Garzon’s actions in previous cases. This sounds like a bit of blackmail.”

However, he adds, Garzon did not relent and now he is on trial for “abusing judicial powers” in this and other cases.

Garzon and his supporters, which include almost every human rights group on the planet, claim that the charges are politically motivated and, “to be sure, the entire affair appears similar to the questionable rape charge facing Assange in Sweden.”

Davidson documents that the U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 2009, Eduardo Aguirre, described his actions (in a diplomatic cable made public by Wikileaks in 2010) in relation to the Garzon investigation. He wrote:

“…behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear.” The significant word here is “disappear” for there are two approaches to suppressing an unwanted truth. The first is to create a counter-story that makes the truth appear untrue. The second is to simply suppress all evidence, all references, all interest so that the particular truth just “disappears.”

Davidson says, “This is precisely the outcome the U.S. government would like to see.”

He notes that Aguirre managed to get the cooperation of Spain’s Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who is quoted in another U.S. diplomatic cable (also made public by Wikileaks), to the effect that he had a plan to “embarrass” Garzon into dropping his case against the Bush officials by misrepresenting Garzon’s actions in previous cases. “This sounds like a bit of blackmail,” Davidson says.

He adds that Garzon did not relent and now he is on trial for “abusing judicial powers” in this and other cases.

“Garzon and his supporters, which include almost every human rights group on the planet, claim that the charges are politically motivated and, to be sure, the entire affair appears similar to the questionable rape charge facing Assange in Sweden,”  Davidson charges.

In the case of Garzon, the Spanish Public Prosecutor (different than the Chief Prosecutor) has recommended acquittal on all three charges and yet there is still serious doubt that this will happen. If he is found guilty on any of the charges, Garzon “could be banned from serving as a judge for 20 years, in what would be a career-ending blow.”

Davidson says, “This is precisely the outcome the U.S. government would like to see.”

The good news is that this battle to silence Garzon” has not yet intimidated all other Spanish judges.” On January 20, another Spanish judge , Pablo Rafael Gutierrez, took up the case of the former Spanish citizens who allege torture at Guantanamo Bay. This judge, again used the principle of universal jurisdiction, and noted that the United States government has consistently refused to investigate the Spanish citizen’s charges.

James Goldston, the executive director of Open Society Justice Initiative, described the situation this way, “These crimes [such as torture] are universal crimes and it is very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.”

Davidson concurs. He says, “The most powerful and influential government in the world, the one with its capital in Washington, D.C., is going to fight to halt these foreign efforts. And so, we have a war that seeks to replace the truth with either lies or historical black holes.”

“One of the major themes of George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, is the control of information…if government can control all media and all public records it can either impose a lie as truth or simply make selected past events disappear from society’s collective memory,” Davidson recalls.

“Who controls the past…controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Is this not what the United States government is trying to do in the case of its policy of torture: manipulate and hide the truth so people will ignore it and then forget it? And is this not what almost every country tries to do relative to their present crimes or those embedded in their pasts?

Davidson finds it “really amazing just how common this sort of manipulation is. And, the reason it is relatively easy for governments to get away with it is because the average man and woman cares mainly about little truths and not big ones.”

He continues: “Little truths are local truths. Don’t be misled to think that little means unimportant because that is not the case. Little truths are the truths that make possible successful daily interactions and that, of course, makes them very important indeed. Thus, one major reason life can go on relatively smoothly is that, most of the time, you can take as true what others tell you. That this is so means we can rely on friends, have stable relationships with spouses and children, and maintain successfully operating offices, business arrangements, etc. When the little truths start to become lies, these relationships break down.”

And finally, “Alleged big truths are the ones governments and the major media outlets tell the masses. When the U.S. government tells its citizens that unregulated capitalism will make the nation strong and prosperous, or that there must be a war to prevent Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction; when the major American media outlets tell their viewers and readers that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or Israel is ‘just like us’,” they are shaping perceptions that are not just local but regional and national. The problem is that, historically, most alleged big truths turn out to be big lies.”

He concludes: “Yet truth-tellers, like Manning, Assange and Garzon have good historical memories and they do notice and do care. They realize that when big truths turn out to be big lies people suffer–they suffer in the millions, bombs range down from the skies, economies falter and the public sphere of life becomes like a poisoned well. That is why accountability for the crimes hidden behind big lies is so important. That is why no government, no politician, no media organization should be allowed to manipulate the truth about the past or the present. On this the future depends.”

William Fisher has managed economic development programs for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for the past 25 years. He has supervised major multi-year projects for AID in Egypt, where he lived and worked for three years. He returned later with his team to design Egypt’s agricultural strategy. Fisher served in the international affairs area in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He began his working life as a reporter and bureau chief for the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Associated Press in Florida. He now reports on a wide-range of issues for a number of online journals.

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3 Responses for “Baltasar Garzón: The Man Who Refuses Silence”

  1. GARZON ITS GOD.
    PEOPLE THE URUGUAY FOR GARZON,THE GHOSTRIDER BY SPAIN.

    ANTINAZIS UNIDOS

    URUGUAY-SPAIN

  2. Shane G says:

    There are major editing errors in this story. Your hard work is too valuable to get lost in distractions like this. I’m not sure if the problem is from the writing or the editing, but major sections are repeated, sometimes without attribution. Please fix this.

  3. Jesse Hemingway says:

    We can wish for justice!!!

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