Sunday, October 19, 2008

history has judged so the courts should not?

On the morning of Sunday 19 October I´d posted the below blog entry. It is now the early hours of 22 October, and more-or-less daily there have been follow-up media reports. It is with this in mind, that I would like to add (some links to articles and opinion pieces that have appeared. I leave my original post below (at the bottom) intact.

Some Spanish-language sources:

Some English-language sources:

More particularly, I found that the following part of the Garton Ash article resonated w.r.t. the process that seems needed in Spain as regards the victims of Francoist repression:

"Let me be clear. I believe it is very important that nations, states, peoples and other groups (not to mention individuals) should face up, solemnly and publicly, to the bad things done by them or in their name. The West German leader Willy Brandt falling silently to his knees in Warsaw before a monument to the victims and heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto is, for me, one of the noblest images of postwar European history. For people to face up to these things, they have to know about them in the first place. So these subjects must be taught in schools as well as publicly commemorated. But before they are taught, they must be researched. The evidence must be uncovered, checked and sifted, and various possible interpretations tested against it."

My original posting of 19-Oct-2008:
This write-up is a response to the article titled <<Zapatero: "El franquismo está ya juzgado por la historia">> (Zapatero: "Francoism has already been judged by history.")
Spanish President José Luís Rodriguez Zapatero responded in this way, when asked to opine on the recent initiative undertaken by Judge Balthasar Garzón vis-a-vis prosecution for atrocities committed not only during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, but also those committed in the Spanish post-war (posguerra) period. (The Spanish postwar period should not be confused with the WWII postwar period. In some ways they sit quite separate.)

Zapatero´s response above suggests that since history has already exercised judgement, that this is where the buck stops. This is incorrect, and here´s why:

Garzón´s claims that what ocurred had been human rights abuses and therefore outside the scope of the 1977 amnesty seem entirely correct. Spain cannot for much longer hold itself up as the champion of human rights (e,g, the pursuit of Pinochet) without having a look in their own backyard. To continue to avoid dealing with the domestic matter is absurd. Further, the international (human rights) climate has changed in such a way that it is ripe for this kind of judicial judgment to be made/exercised/invoked. And given the timeline if we compare other atrocities the world over that have happened _after_ the Spanish Civil War and that have already been judged, Spain simply cannot afford to "look the other way" anymore. I feel that the international community is looking to Spain to clean up this blight on its human rights record. Yes, history _has_ judged. But any State that professes the virtues of the Rule of Law, cannot but make that this judgement also be a legal matter.

See also this English-language write-up of some days ago:

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