Trials of former Spanish judge lack independence, impartiality: landmark case

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Former Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Spanish National Court was suspended successful 2010 and criminally prosecuted and tried successful 2012 for alleged willful maltreatment of powerfulness successful 2 cases of large governmental value astatine the nationalist level.

In the first case, Mr. Garzón assumed jurisdiction to analyse enforced disappearances during the Civil War and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Judges should beryllium capable to construe and use the instrumentality without fearfulness of being punished  – UN Human Rights Committee member

Trough the second case, called Gürtel, helium tried a governmental corruption ungraded during which the erstwhile justice decided to show communications betwixt defendants and their representatives.

Mr. Garzón was acquitted successful the Franco proceedings but was convicted of willful maltreatment of powerfulness successful the Gürtel lawsuit and disbarred from bureau for 11 years.

The Committee emphasized that adjacent if the erstwhile justice had committed a judicial mistake successful some cases, it should person been corrected by a reappraisal earlier a higher tribunal and not done the transgression prosecution.

First-ever ruling against a State 

In 2016, Mr. Garzón filed a ailment against Spain earlier the UN Human Rights Committee – the assemblage of autarkic experts charged with monitoring signatory States’ compliance with the International Covenant connected Civil and Political Rights.

The erstwhile justice alleged that helium suffered aggregate quality rights violations during some 2 trials. 

The determination is the archetypal clip that the Committee has ruled and condemned a State for the usage of transgression instrumentality against a justice successful the people of his oregon her duties, frankincense establishing caller jurisprudence.

Judges should beryllium capable to construe and use the instrumentality without fearfulness of being punished oregon judged for the contented of their decisions”, Committee subordinate José Santos Pais concluded. “This is indispensable to sphere judicial independence”.

Human Rights Committee subordinate   José Manuel Santos Pais speaks retired  connected  the lawsuit  of Former Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Spanish National Court. (file)

UN News/Daniel Johnson

Human Rights Committee subordinate José Manuel Santos Pais speaks retired connected the lawsuit of Former Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Spanish National Court. (file)

Decisions ‘did not represent superior misconduct’ 

In the Franco proceedings, the Committee specified that Mr. Garzón’s decisions “were astatine slightest a plausible ineligible interpretation, the appropriateness of which was reviewed connected appeal, without it being concluded that specified decisions constituted misconduct oregon incompetence that could warrant his inability to execute his duties”.

Of the Gürtel case, the Committee considered that “the mentation of Mr. Garzón, which was shared by different judges and the Public Prosecutor, adjacent if, arsenic claimed by the State, it was erroneous, did not represent superior misconduct oregon incompetence that could warrant his transgression conviction”. 

Right to impartial tribunal ‘violated’

Mr. Pais noted that the close to beryllium tried by an autarkic and impartial tribunal takes connected peculiar relevance successful the lawsuit of judges, arsenic it “ensures that they tin transportation retired their judicial duties without undue interference oregon obstruction, protecting them against arbitrary transgression oregon disciplinary proceedings”.

The Committee concluded that Mr. Garzón’s close to beryllium tried by an impartial tribunal was violated.

The Committee highlighted that immoderate of the Supreme Court judges who tried him intervened successful some cases, contempt Mr Garzón's petition that they beryllium recused; the trials were conducted simultaneously; the oral trials successful the 2 cases took spot 5 days apart; and the judgements were issued 18 days apart.

The members besides criticized the information that Mr. Garzón did not person entree to a 2nd lawsuit to appeal, fixed that helium was tried connected lone erstwhile by the Supreme Court, Spain's highest judicial body.

In the Gürtel case, the Committee underlined that the condemnation for willful maltreatment of powerfulness against Garzón was “arbitrary and unforeseeable” arsenic it was not based connected sufficiently explicit, wide and precise ineligible provisions.

Article 15 of the Covenant establishes the rule of legality and predictability, i.e. that nary 1 tin beryllium convicted for acts that were not sufficiently explicitly foreseen astatine the clip they were committed.

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