Spanish judge suspended over abuse of power charges

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.

A prominent Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, has been suspended from his post by Spain's General Council of the Judiciary.

The suspension comes after Spain's Supreme Court ruled that an inquiry Garzón opened in 2008 into crimes committed during Spain's civil war, which lasted from 1936 to 1939. The events are covered by an amnesty from 1977, and it is charged that Garzón abused his powers by opening the investigation.

Garzón appealed the ruling, claiming that had conducted a legitimate inquiry, as crimes against humanity had been conducted during the war, which were not valid under the amnesty. A date for his trial has not yet been set; if convicted, Garzón would not serve jail time, but would be suspended for as long as 20 years.

The Human Rights Watch was critical of Garzón's suspension; a statement from the group said that "This is a sad day for the cause of human rights. Garzón was instrumental in delivering justice for victims of atrocities abroad and now he is being punished for trying to do the same at home."

On Thursday, Garzón requested of the Spanish government to be allowed to serve as a consultant for the International Criminal Court, which offered him the post. Scheduled to last for seven months, the assignment has been seen as Garzón's attempt to at least partially avoid the embarrassment of being suspended from his post in Spain.