Despite fears that silence might lead a vengeful establishment to demolish their houses, no one in the pub last night was prepared to stroll out on a limb and sing the praises of Spanish justice. There was however was support for alternative propositions. These constitute a continuum which commences with the notion that in terms of fairness the Spanish and English systems are closely-related shades of grey, with a Basque-whacking Egunkaria for every Paddy-whacking Birmingham Six. From there we slide, increasingly burdened by keywords like “slowness”, “partiality”, and “bureaucracy”, into the world of the first victim of the Spanish courts to make it big in English popular culture: Thomas Kyd‘s Armada-era Hieronymo, a magistrate who in The Spanish tragedy fails to obtain justice for the murder of his son and
slowly … retreats from the corrupt daylight world of the Spanish court into introspection and darkness, a questioning of the meaning of existence, madness and at last into a frenzy of retributive killing crowned by his own suicide.
If magistrate Baltasar Garzón is indeed struck off, it’s difficult to imagine him embracing introspection and darkness–although if he really cares deeply about the past he could always shut himself up in a room with his ghost-writer and churn out a historical bestseller. I’m not sure if anyone agreed with me, but it seemed to me that if there’s anything that differentiates Spanish from British justice, it may be the popular faith in superhuman vigilantes who will set the law aside and bring new order and put mankind in its place–manifestly Garzón’s project (as well, of course, as that of his anti-Messiah in 1936).
I actually sympathise with Garzón’s apparent belief (like that of George Bush re Iraq) that human rights violators should be pursued wherever they may be and whenever they may have committed their crimes. However I’m not particularly comfortable with either hard-line natural or positivist approaches to the law, so while I think Bush probably had sufficient law on his side and meaningful prospects of getting the bastards which were unavailable to Iraq’s residents, Garzón in order to inconvenience some of the dead appears to have acted illegally in a democracy equipped with the means to correct its ills. And that seems to me wrong, and injurious to democracy itself.
Perhaps the most popular argument as to why anti-constitutional behaviour should not be challenged here is that the challenge came initially from the far right. The clamour to deny their constitutional rights strikes me as every bit as damaging as the several unjustified attempts by judge Juan del Olmo to restrict press freedom on several other fringes of the anti-establishment. If the Falange is to be silenced for human rights abuses committed by an organisation with the same name in the 1930s, what of the PSOE or the (heirs of the) PCE?
In similar vein, the myth is propagated that this is a left-right conflict. So, for example, retired-prosecutor Carlos Jiménez Villarejo has accused Luciano Varela, the judge responsible for handling the Garzón case, of being a member of the Franquista elite. In fact, Varela entered the profession in the dying days of the regime, was one of the founders of the “progressive” Judges for Democracy, and is credited with conclusively upsetting the post-dictatorship applecart in Galicia. Villarejo meanwhile was appointed in 1962 and served the regime without apparent philosophical problems, achieved notoriety after the transition for his attempts to jail Jordi Pujol for embezzlement in the Banca Catalana scandal, and was subsequently an election candidate on one of the post-communist lists. Some of the sand has shifted too much to draw simple good/bad lines, and, as LiSC suggests, some of this sounds more personal than political.
Much of the international attention for the case strikes me as adopting a patronising, African attitude to Spain, echoing George Orwell’s taking a Catalan safari to hunt priests and capitalists and then going back home and relying on Lady Astor to fix him up with a Church of England funeral. Faced with a crisis, would Guardian writers or Tom the Pox really like to tear up the British constitution and have a latter-day David Blunkett or Michael Howard set things to rights?
When I write “equipped with the means to correct its ills” I’m hinting at what David Maeztu as usual expresses so well:
those who should be in the dock for malfeasance are the [relevant] judges, prosecutors and public officials who, knowing of dead in ditches, have done nothing to identify the bodies, to ascertain the cause of death and above all, return them to the families who tragically lost them. That’s the great shame of this country.
The “Batman” in this post’s title is of course a reference to The dark knight, where the treatment of crime and extra-judicial punishment is no longer simply that of the classic, straightforward Chiroptera-vigilante flick, where Gotham is no longer a weak, cowed population in need of a messianic saviour. That seems to me to a smart path for Spain to follow.
- The secret life of Judge Garzón
Some doubts re the alleged assassination attempts.
- Spanish justice
John Pawlenko’s excellent Chupa Chups exposé is turning into the longest post in the world (scroll to 27th Sept), but you
- Garzón, and what Franco said to Jay Allen before Spanish translators and historians got involved
I think this is the first intended mistranslation I’ve dealt with here. At the tail end of the bizarre campaign to
- Spanish judicial independence
Judge Garzón would be ineligible for appointment to the judiciary in England and at the European Court, so why is he
- Perspectives for home schooling in Catalonia
It’s looking good, and who the hell cares if it’s unconstitutional?