Crusading Spanish judge appointed to anti-torture body

7th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, known for his bid to pursue former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, was elected Wednesday to the Council of Europe's anti-torture arm, it said.

The 55-year-old judge was elected over two other candidates to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture by delegates from the council's 47 member countries, the body said in a statement.

Among his duties will be inspections of prisons, psychiatric hospitals and other detention facilities of member countries to ensure that inmates' basic rights are respected.

The judge, best known for his attempt to extradite Pinochet from Britain for human rights abuses in 1998, is awaiting trial for abuse of power in Spain over a probe into Franco-era crimes.

He faces trial for launching an investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during Spain's 1936-39 civil war and General Francisco Franco's subsequent right-wing dictatorship.

The case followed a complaint by far-right groups who claim the probe violated an amnesty law passed in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

If convicted he would not go to prison but could be suspended for up to 20 years, effectively ending his domestic career.

Garzon was suspended from his post in May last year pending the trial, which has yet to start. He later accepted a temporary post at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the case.

The judge also indicted Osama bin Laden in 2003 over the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and looked into the deaths of Spaniards in Argentina during the military regime of 1976-83, under the principle of "universal jurisdiction."

Universal jurisdiction holds that heinous crimes like torture or terrorism can be tried in Spain even if they had no link to the country.

© 2011 AFP

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