x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Franco victims had a right to justice, says Spanish judge

The Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon, testifying at his own trial, said that relatives of victims of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco had a right to justice despite a 1977 amnesty.

MADRID // The Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon, testifying at his own trial, said yesterday that relatives of victims of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco had a right to justice despite a 1977 amnesty.

Mr Garzon, best known for securing the 1998 London arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is accused of abusing his powers in investigating 114,000 suspected murders during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War and the four-decade dictatorship that followed.

"They were describing a systematic elimination ... and thousands of those remain 'disappeared' today", Mr Garzon said.

The prosecution - brought by private parties, not the state - claims Mr Garzon violated the amnesty. He argues that the forced disappearances under Franco were crimes against humanity that could not be the subject of an amnesty under international law.

It is one of three criminal cases against him that divided public opinion in Spain.

While some people back the trials, many believe they are a politically motivated attempt to bring the high-profile human rights campaigner down or to prevent a truth commission into the dictatorship which ended with Franco's death in 1975.

If found guilty of any of the charges against him, the 56-year-old could receive a 20-year ban from working as an investigating magistrate in Spain.