The New York Times and The Garzon Case
To the editor of the Editorial Page, The New York Times
Madrid, April 19, 2010
According to the editorial “An Injustice in Spain”, published on April 9th, if the crimes Judge Garzón tried to investigate were “as seems likely…crimes against humanity under international law, Spain’s 1977 amnesty could not legally absolve them”.
If the so called Rome Statute (the 1998 International Criminal Court’s rules) is the reference, two Spanish Civil War events seem to qualify as “crimes against humanity” (article 7 of the Statute) better than any other: 1)the murder of nearly 7,000 Catholic priests, monks, nuns and Catholic associations’ members, for no other crime than being believers or Church’s active members, and 2) the decision, which was carried out in November and December 1936, by the communist authorities and their soviet NKVD advisers, having at the time de facto control of security matters in Madrid, to exterminate all the “political” detainees in Madrid prisons and other centers of detention under the control of Popular Front parties and other organizations. The prisoners were Army’s officers –without any known responsibility in the military revolt-, upper and middle class individuals, public employees, politicians, lawyers, doctors, judges, artists, professors, writers and journalists, all of them suspected of being in sympathy with the military rebellion. Between 6,000 and 8,000 persons were murdered, even very young people who were arrested with their parents
With or without amnesty laws, no legal prosecution is possible against the dead, neither in Spain, nor, to the best of our knowledge, in any other country. Those responsible for the crimes committed by both sides during and after the war died long ago. But there is a very relevant exception: Mr. Santiago Carrillo, an historical communist leader, who was undoubtedly involved in or connected with the mass-murder decision taken in Madrid, November 1936, and who is still alive. Mr. Carrillo, who is now 95 years old, played a very positive role in the transition to democracy after Franco’s death. Indeed, he and his party, the Communist Party, did support the 1977 Amnesty Law, an important piece in the political architecture which allowed Spain to pass peacefully from a dictatorship to a democracy.
A very large majority of Spaniards would consider it a crazy idea to put Mr. Carrillo on trial with the argument that the 1998 Rome Statute supersedes the 1977 amnesty. Today, the Spanish Civil War and the regime of General Franco are tasks for historians, not for judges. Mixing the two or trying to establish a canon of that history which satisfies “Justice” on either side is nonsense. Mr. Garzón’ s attempt to launch a new cause célèbre has very little to do with justice. Rather, we are many in Spain to believe that it was a show for domestic political consumption and a leverage for a further enhancement of his status as an international celebrity