The ICJ called today on the Spanish Supreme Court to move expeditiously to revise and quash the conviction of Judge Baltasar Garzon for abuse of power and to reinstate him in the judiciary, after the UN Human Rights Committee found that the convictions in two trials against him were in breach of his fair trial rights.
“The Committee of independent experts has finally affirmed what the ICJ said nine years ago: that the prosecutions of Judge Garzon and his conviction were arbitrary” said Massimo Frigo, “Judge Garzon is due not only reinstatement, but also reparation for his unlawful convictions”.
The ICJ is particularly concerned that Judge Garzon had come under attack for his pursuit of politically contentious cases, such as the investigation of alleged enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
“The Spanish authorities and the judiciary should take measures to ensure that cases of alleged errors in law by an independent judge are dealt with review and revision and in the judicial process, and not by punishing the judges through criminal processes”, Said Massimo Frigo. “To subject a judge to prosecution for exercising his judicial functions carries a chilling effect on judiciary and thereby undermines its independence”
The UN Human Rights Committee held, in a decision published on 25 August 2021, that the prosecutions and the convictions for judicial abuse of power (prevaricacion) of Judge Baltasar Garzon by the Criminal Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court that led to his dismissal from the judiciary were arbitrary. The Committee said it was not foreseeable or predictable that criminal liability could attach for his decisions and therefore to charge him was in breach of the principle of legality and non-retroactivity under article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Committee also concluded that the Supreme Court that adjudicated these cases was not impartial as required by international standards of judicial independence and the right to a fair trial under article 14 ICCPR.
Judge Baltasar Garzon was prosecuted for abuse of power in 2009 for having led investigations into crimes against humanity alleged to have been carried out during the Franco regime. He was suspended from the judiciary in this case, though he was later acquitted of the criminal charges. The second prosecution arose from his wiretapping of conversations between lawyers and clients, in which the lawyers were suspect of complicity, in a corruption scandal involving the Popular Party (PP) (the “Gürtel” case). He was convicted in this case and dismissed from the judiciary.
Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme, e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org, t: +41797499949