Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mass arrest of NH demonstrators: Some ideas for constructive response

Sponsor: - Some more thoughts regarding the largest-ever mass arrest of Free Staters...

Safety Dance parody

Very funny 'literal' video subvert of the Men Without Hats song, "The Safety Dance."

Spain judge to face trial over Civil War probe

By Inmaculada Sanz - Reuters

MADRID: Spanish high-profile judge Baltasar Garzon will face trial on charges of exceeding his authority for ordering an investigation into killings committed during the Civil War, court officials said on Wednesday.

Garzon, who won fame for his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights abuses, stands accused of improperly investigating alleged crimes carried out under the dictatorship of Spain's Francisco Franco.

The decision to put Garzon on trial will lead to the Spanish judges' governing body, the CGPJ, temporarily suspending Garzon from his duties at the high court, the court said. It is still not known when the trial will start.

The proceedings stem from a lawsuit brought against Garzon by the rightist union Manos Limpias, who were later joined by the group Libertad e Identidad and the far-right Falange party, which was powerful during the Civil War but is now marginalised.

Garzon ordered an investigation in October 2008 into the forced disappearance of more than 100,000 people during the 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing dictatorship of Franco, at the request of the victims' families.

Suspects may not be tried in Spain for crimes committed more than 30 years ago. Franco died in 1975, and the crimes under investigation were perpetrated in the 1930s and 1040s.

He later dropped the probe following criticism by state prosecutors, but passed responsibility for exhuming mass graves to regional courts.

This week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague offered Garzon a position as a consultant for seven months to improve its investigative methods. Garzon, who has already assisted the ICC prosecutor in an ongoing preliminary examination in Colombia, had asked for a transfer to work at the ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal set up to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Judge Garzon's extensive experience in investigating massive crimes committed by States and non state organisations will be a great contribution to my office," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Garzon faces two other Spanish Supreme Court enquiries: one for bugging corruption suspects linked to the opposition Popular Party, and another for dropping an investigation into the head of Spain's biggest bank Santander after receiving payments for giving courses sponsored by the bank in New York.

~ Link ~

From Baltasar Garzón's profile on Speak Truth to Power:

...My work is dangerous mostly in matters of terrorism, and also counterterrorism, meaning state terrorism, or death squads, against organized terrorism. I’ve had to order the vice minister of the Interior taken into custody, along with the heads of the antiterrorist police. I’ve also prosecuted cases against the leaders of the antidrug police, of the civil police, because there were many cases of bribery. My work regarding Spanish problems is mostly dedicated to cases of terrorism, political terrorism, pro-independence terrorist acts, Islamic terrorism. But mostly, ETA terrorism, which is the Basque organization from northern Spain.

I have received many death threats, but you get used to it. Threats have never changed my mind. Threats mainly come when I investigate cases of drug trafficking, from Colombia or Turkey, with heroin. One time when I felt a great deal of pressure was when I opened up the cases of counterterrorism, death squads. People broke into my house and left a banana peel on top of my bed. At the time, accusations appeared charging me with misuse of government funds. They had all these receipts, some real, others bogus. Luckily I was able to prove the accusations were false. (Ever since then I keep meticulous records of every single thing I purchase.) But such accusations continued until I went to the Attorney General and asked that he investigate me, so everything would be clear. That’s when the banana appeared. The banana peel was a sign to me that they could do whatever they wanted with my family; a Mafia-style warning. If they had access to the most intimate room in my home, my bedroom, that meant they could go anywhere undetected. On that Saturday, our family was out of the house, but our home is under surveillance by television cameras and a policeman twenty-four hours a day. A week later, a journalist phoned me. Since nothing had happened, nor had I said anything, or denounced anything, somebody had phoned this journalist and told the journalist the story that somebody broke into our home and left a banana peel on the bed. So the journalist phones me and says, "Did you see a banana peel on top of your bed a week ago?" I answered, "No, what are you talking about? I haven’t seen anything." That evening, while having dinner with my wife and kids, I said to my wife, "It’s such nonsense, this journalist pretends a week ago there was a banana peel on our bed." And my wife became pale. I said, "What’s wrong, aren’t you feeling well?" And she said that on that same Saturday, when she and her sister came back from shopping, they found this banana peel on the bed. But they didn’t give any importance to it, because they thought one of the kids had left it. They threw it in the garbage and thought that was it. So we realized it was true, that they had broken in, they had broken the key lock of the house, the cameras were broken, they were not working, and yes, we were frightened.

Despite the pressures, it is very clear to me that I have a job to do. The rest is peripheral. I can’t allow these things to change my life. I am voluntarily where I am. These problems are included in the job description. I’m not cavalier. I take precautions. I’m aware there’s a risk. I do my best to stay at home as much as possible. I don’t go to public places very often. When I go with one of my kids to the cinema, I never follow the same route. So I have measures that are almost ingrained after twelve years and I do my best so that this does not affect me. I’m lucky because my wife has always supported me. And even when I have had doubts about myself, it has been my wife who has stopped me and said, "You can’t have doubts about anything, you can’t be weak, you must go on." We have both talked a lot to the kids about this commitment that we feel, that our life is this way, and that there are risks, but we have to take them. When I abandoned politics as an independent deputy, to return to being a judge, my eldest daughter came and embraced me, saying, "Daddy, I support you and I like you more as a judge." One of the things we’ve made clear to our children—as I was taught as a kid in my family—is that this is a job, that somebody has to do this job, and that I have decided to take this job with total freedom and absolute responsibility. I explain that I could earn much more somewhere else, but money isn’t everything. This job is something that society needs, and I have to do it. For me, social commitment is very important, almost vital.

All my education stressed that in good times or in bad times you always have to face problems, not run away from them. Sometimes you can be wrong, you can make mistakes. But I accept the responsibilities of my actions. Because what you cannot do is what many people do, you cannot pretend that these problems are not your problems. I believe that a judge must live in society, must deal with the problems in society, and must deal directly with the problems of society, must face them. We have good, strong laws both domestic and international. Yet nobody seems to apply them. They say, "Well, this is something that is maybe different from what I’m used to." The world’s problems seem to be only problems that you watch on TV, then you keep on having dinner, and then you go to sleep. This does not mean that I feel I am Mother Teresa—I wish I were! But it does mean that if a case comes to me, I must apply all the laws and extend the application of law to benefit the case. We cannot say that, "I only take account of what happens in my country, and what happens beyond the borders does not affect me." That would be a nineteenth-century approach. The key issue is that the victims, those massacred as a result of those crimes against humanity, need protection...

Thousands rally for Spanish judge Garzon

MADRID — Thousands rallied across 28 Spanish cities Saturday to protest the trial of crusading judge Baltasar Garzon, as a rights group warned targeting him would undermine EU efforts to combat abuses.

Garzon, who ordered the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 under the principle of "universal jurisdiction" which held that grave crimes committed abroad can be tried in Spain, now faces two court cases himself.

Earlier this month he was indicted for exceeding his authority by opening an investigation in 2008 into crimes committed by General Francisco Franco's regime in Spain that were covered by an amnesty.

Garzon also appeared before the Supreme Court in Madrid last week in a suspected bribery case involving payments he allegedly received for seminars in the United States.

Thousands joined an evening rally in Madrid which drew Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar as well as other artists and celebrities.

"Fascists get out of the courts," "Universal justice," and "More judges like Garzon," they cried marching out from the centre of the capital. Some help up black and white photographs of people who had disappeared during the Franco era.

Toni Garcia, one of the organisers, said a 1977 amnesty law should be scrapped as it prevented "investigations into crimes against humanity" during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and Franco's ensuing iron-fisted rule which ended only in 1975.

Hundreds turned out in the Spanish cities of Jaen, Valencia and Las Palmas in the Canary islands to protest at the "impunity of the Franco regime" and at what they said was a bid to turn Garzon into a criminal.

~ more... ~

The Man Who Unearthed 200 Mass Graves in Spain

”The three rights of victims are truth, justice and reparations, and these have not been forthcoming” in the case of the roughly 200,000 victims of murder and forced disappearance during the war and the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, Etxeberria said.

”I don't think we'll find them all, it's impossible,” he added.

With the passage of the ”law on historical memory” in 2000 and a lawsuit filed by a son who had lost his father, Etxeberria began to excavate in Priaranza del Bierzo in the northern province of León. The bodies of 13 civilians shot by firing squad at the start of the war were unearthed. It was the first scientific excavation of mass graves carried out in Spain, nearly 70 years after the war began.

With virtually no political or financial support, the team of experts led by the professor of forensic medicine from the University of the Basque Country in northern Spain has included dozens of volunteers from around the world.

According to Etxeberria, the law was an attempt to ”move from truth to reparations, but no one wants to get involved in the justice aspect.” No one, that is, except for Judge Garzón who, based on this investigation, launched an unprecedented legal inquiry in 2008 into the fate of the victims of Franco-era crimes -- a probe that has now landed him in the dock.

The so-called ”superjudge” has been accused by right-wing groups of overreaching his judicial powers by ordering the investigation of the mass graves, which they say violated the amnesty law passed by the Spanish parliament in 1977, two years after Franco's death.

~ more... ~

Spanish judge resumes torture case against six senior Bush lawyers

The Spanish newspaper Público reported exclusively on Saturday that Judge Baltasar Garzón is pressing ahead with a case against six senior Bush administration lawyers for implementing torture at Guantánamo.

Back in March, Judge Garzón announced that he was planning to investigate the six prime architects of the Bush administration’s torture policies — former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; John Yoo, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who played a major role in the preparation of the OLC’s notorious “torture memos”; Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy; William J. Haynes II, the Defense Department’s former general counsel; Jay S. Bybee, Yoo’s superior in the OLC, who signed off on the August 2002 “torture memos”; and David Addington, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

In April, on the advice of the Spanish Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido, who believes that an American tribunal should judge the case (or dismiss it) before a Spanish court even thinks about becoming involved, prosecutors recommended that Judge Garzón should drop his investigation. As CNN reported, Mr. Conde-Pumpido told reporters that Judge Garzón’s plans threatened to turn the court “into a toy in the hands of people who are trying to do a political action.”

On Saturday, however, Público reported that Judge Garzón had accepted a lawsuit presented by a number of Spanish organizations — the Asociación Pro Dignidad de los Presos y Presas de España (Organization for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners), Asociación Libre de Abogados (Free Lawyers Association), the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (Association for Human Rights in Spain) and Izquierda Unida (a left-wing political party) — and three former Guantánamo prisoners (the British residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and Sami El-Laithi, an Egyptian freed in 2005, who was paralyzed during an incident involving guards at Guantánamo).

The newspaper reported that all these groups and individuals would take part in any trial, which is somewhat ironic, as, although Judge Garzón has been involved in high-profile cases that have delighted human rights advocates — his pursuit of General Pinochet, for example — he has been severely criticized for his heavy-handed approach to terrorism-related cases in Spain (as in the cases of Mohammed Farsi and Farid Hilali, amongst others), and, in fact, aggressively pursued an extradition request for both Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes on their return from Guantánamo to the UK in December 2007, in connection with spurious and long-refuted claims about activities related to terrorism, which he was only persuaded to drop in March 2008.

~ more... ~

Who is Baltasar Garzón, and why should we care?

Here comes the Judge...

Spanish Central Criminal High Court Judge, Baltasar Garzón, has always relentlessly pursued the Bad Guy. Even across decades and beyond borders. And without benefit of a nearby phone booth.

In his twenty-two years as one of Spain´s chief criminal magistrates, Garzón has reiteratively received mass media attention for intrepidly going after the largest of quarries -- the heretofore "untouchable" capos, dictators, and corrupt politicians that no one dared to cross-- and has since become something of a living legend -- a crusader -- to be admired or loathed, according to which side of the Law you happen to live on.

In his own country, among many other examples, he has headed mutiple judicial investigations that eventually put an end to two major Spanish drug cartels and insistently pounded, until severely weakening, Basque terrorism by ingenously attacking the root of the problem through systematic shutdowns of businesses and newspapers that nurtured the radicals by direct or indirect financing, or by acting as "ha ha ha freedom of speech" propaganda vehicles for violent nationalist ideologies.

Politically left-wing and an ambitious, committed idealist by nature, he has been a driving force in the uncovering of a huge right-wing corruption case -- the so-called Caso Gürtel -- involving several major office-holding politicians from the conservative Partido Popular last year, but, prior to that, in 1993, and lest someone should cry "partiality", he undertook investigations that would implicate his own correligionaries in PSOE (Spanish Socialist Worker´s Party) by blowing open an eighties government counterterrorism operation, GAL, that had involved, most notoriously, the kidnapping of an innocent French citizen who was held hostage for ten days after being "confused" with a leader of Euskadi Ta Akatasuna (ETA), the Basque terrorist group, and original objective of the government-planned abduction.

His investigations were key to the party´s public humiliation and consequent downfall in the Spanish general elections in 1996 after the media attention generated by the case caused severe indignation and outrage among Spaniards.

But when Garzón made international headlines in October of 1998 for having Chilean former dicatator, Augusto Pinochet, arrested in the UK and nearly extradited to Spain for Crimes Against Humanity, the planet suddenly wasn´t big enough for Garzón and the bad guys both: genocides and dictators everywhere immediately felt a lot less, well, Impune, with a capital I.

Garzón had found a greater scope for his calling and, pistol still smoking after the point made with Pinochet, in 2005, he established a judicial precedent that would ultimately allow for Adolfo Scilingo, a military official during the Argentinian dictatorship, to be condemned to 1,084 years in prison for multiple assasinations in the 1970´s -- some being the result of the infamous "death flights" in which drugged political dissidents were executed by being thrown out of planes in the middle of the ocean.

~ more... ~


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