Spanish judge should not be prosecuted for doing his job, says UN rights office

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Photo

10 February 2012 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern at the trial of Judge Baltasar Garzón for probing alleged atrocities committed during Spain’s civil war, noting that the country is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations.

“Judges should not be subject to criminal prosecution for doing their job,” Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.

The prominent Spanish judge was reportedly convicted yesterday in a separate trial for authorizing illegal phone-tapping, and suspended from the judiciary for 11 years.

He is also on trial on charges of “knowingly exceeding his jurisdiction” by admitting and investigating complaints related to crimes against humanity regarding allegations of enforced disappearances between 1936 and 1951, during the country’s civil war and then under the regime of Francisco Franco.

These cases are allegedly inadmissible because of a Spanish amnesty law introduced after General Franco’s death and the expiration of the statute of limitations.

“Spain is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations, including those committed during the Franco regime, and to prosecute and punish those responsible,” said Mr. Colville.

He recalled that, after reviewing the report presented by Spain, the UN Human Rights Committee in 2009 informed the country that it should repeal its amnesty law, which was not in conformity with international human rights law.

In its concluding observations that same year, the Committee also recommended that Spain consider taking the necessary legislative measures to guarantee recognition by the domestic courts of the non-applicability of a statute of limitations to crimes against humanity, he said.

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