Spain's supreme court to investigate top judge

28th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The supreme court will investigate whether judge Baltasar Garzon was guilty of misconduct when he order a controversial probe into the disappearances of civilians during the 1936-39 civil war.

Madrid – The Spanish Supreme Court said Wednesday it would investigate whether a top judge overstepped his bounds when ordering a probe last year into the disappearance of civilians during Spain's civil war.

It said it had agreed to study a complaint filed against Judge Baltasar Garzon in January by Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), a union representing public workers described by some Spanish media as belonging to the "extreme right".

Public prosecutors had recommended that the court reject the complaint.

The union accuses Garzon, known around the world for his campaigns against former Latin American dictators, of "misconduct" for taking steps which he knew he was not authorised to do as part of the investigation which he launched.

In a controversial move, the judge in October 2008 agreed to investigate the disappearances of tens of thousands of people during the 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing right-wing dictatorship of General Franciso Franco.

As part of the investigation – the first official probe into this recent and divisive period of Spanish history – he ordered mass graves that are thought to hold the remains of victims of Franco's forces to be unearthed.

Public prosecutors opposed the probe, arguing it violated an amnesty agreed by political parties in the spirit of national reconciliation in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

In November 2008 Garzon announced he was dropping the investigation on the grounds that Franco and 43 of his associates could not be held legally responsible because they were dead.

He also handed responsibility for the excavation of mass graves from the civil war era to regional courts.

In its complaint, Manos Limpias accused Garzon of ignoring the 1977 amnesty. Garzon had argued that there was no statute of limitations covering the disappearances since they constituted crimes against humanity.

AFP / Expatica

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