Baltasar Garzón

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Baltasar Garzón (2013).

Baltasar Garzón Real [ baltaˈsaɾ gaɾˈθon ] (born October 26, 1955 in Torres , Jaén province ) is a Spanish examining magistrate at the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid . Through his work in numerous proceedings of outstanding importance (such as against the Chilean dictator Pinochet ), he has an exceptionally high media presence in Spain and abroad. On May 14, 2010, Garzón was suspended as a judge due to pending legal proceedings against him and on February 9, 2012, he was banned from the profession for eleven years. Luis Moreno Ocampo , the head of the prosecution at the International Criminal Court , had previously invited him on May 6, 2010 to work as a consultant at the ICC .

Garzón was previously a member of the Spanish Parliament in 1993/94 . In parallel to his work as a judge, Garzón teaches criminal law at the Complutense University of Madrid .

Start of career

Baltasar Garzón Real was born on October 26, 1955 in the Andalusian village of Torres, the son of a farmer and a tank attendant. He grew up with five siblings in simple circumstances. Originally Garzón wanted to be a pastor. He attended a seminary for six years.

After graduating from high school, however, he began a degree in law financed by odd jobs, which he graduated from the University of Seville in 1979. Garzón started his career as a judge in 1981. He worked first in Valverde del Camino ( Huelva ), then in Villacarrillo ( Jaén ) and Almería . In 1983 he was appointed inspector for Andalusia at the Consejo General del Poder Judicial , the self-governing body of the Spanish judiciary . In 1988 he became one of the six examining magistrates at the Audiencia Nacional , the highest Spanish criminal court. Unlike in other countries, where the investigations are directed by a public prosecutor and only controlled by the investigating magistrate, in Spain the investigating magistrate himself is responsible for investigating the facts, so that Garzón was able to decide independently whether to start and continue investigative proceedings.

Garzón first gained prominence through large-scale drug trafficking investigations that he carried out in Galicia in 1990 and 1991 . Several dozen members of drug trafficking rings were arrested in Operations Nécora and Pitón . However, in the 1994 judgments, several of the defendants were acquitted because Garzón had illegally tapped phones during the investigation so that the evidence could not be used.

Member of the Spanish Parliament

In the Spanish parliamentary elections in 1993 , Garzón ran for second place in the list in Madrid for the ruling PSOE and moved into the House of Representatives . Prime Minister Felipe González then appointed him commissioner for the national anti-drug plan with the rank of State Secretary under Justice and Interior Minister Juan Alberto Belloch . In May 1994, however, Garzón resigned from this post and also renounced his parliamentary mandate, as the government was not taking decisive action against corruption .

Known cases up to 2005

Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación

After his return to the Audiencia Nacional, Garzón initiated investigations into the so-called Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL, "Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups"). These underground death squads had committed 28 murders of alleged ETA members or sympathizers in the 1980s , of which, however, it is proven that around a third had no connection with the ETA. In 1995 Garzón's investigations, among other things, showed that José Barrionuevo Peña , who had been Minister of the Interior of the PSOE government until 1988 , and other leading PSOE politicians in the Basque Country had been informed of the activities of the GAL. This recognition of organized state terrorism contributed significantly to the deselection of the PSOE in the 1996 parliamentary elections.

Barrionuevo and his former State Secretary Rafael Vera Fernández-Huidobro were sentenced to long prison terms in 1998. Vera, on the other hand, sued the European Court of Human Rights , which in its judgment at the beginning of 2010 criticized the fact that the impartiality of the investigation was doubtful due to the personal hostility between Vera and Garzón. However, the conviction was upheld as it had been upheld by a higher Spanish instance, the Supreme Court .

ETA and Batasuna

Furthermore, Garzón made a name for himself at national level since the late 1990s, mainly in the fight against terrorism of the Basque- separatist organization ETA and its environment.

In 1998 he ordered a search of the branches of the private Basque language school association AEK and the arrest of its treasurer, who was alleged to have links with ETA. In the same year he also had various Basque newspapers and radio stations closed and the judicial prosecution of editorial staff, which earned him charges of fighting not only the ETA terror, but Basque culture in general. After eleven years of the proceedings, the ban on the Egin newspaper was declared unlawful by the chief judges and the penalties imposed in the course of the proceedings were lifted. However, the newspaper publisher's fortune confiscated in 1998 had since lost its value. The Supreme Court also acquitted the members of the “Joxemi Zumalabe” foundation who allegedly incited civil disobedience in the service of ETA.

In October 2002, Garzón banned all activities of the Batasuna party for a period of three years on the grounds that it was part of ETA. In 2003, following a government motion, the Batasuna party was banned by the Supreme Court; the ban was later upheld by the Spanish Constitutional Court and in 2009 by the European Court of Human Rights .

Baltasar Garzón (2005)

In 2005, Garzón investigated the so-called Faisán case against an organization that extorted protection money from Basque entrepreneurs for ETA . After the end of the ceasefire declared by ETA in 2006, Garzón issued an arrest warrant for the last negotiator, ETA's political and military spokesman, Francisco Javier López Peña , who was arrested along with other cadres in France on May 21, 2008.

Pinochet and human rights violations in Latin America

At the same time as his first important investigations into the ETA environment, Garzón also achieved international fame when he issued an international arrest warrant against the general and former dictator, rsp. President of Chile Augusto Pinochet issued. Pinochet was responsible for the 1973 coup in Chile - against the democratically elected government of the Unidad Popular (UP) under President Allende - in which around 3,000 people died as a result of political murders.

Garzón's arrest warrant was based on the forced disappearances , torture and murder of Spanish nationals under the Chilean dictatorship . Garzón relied on the reports of the Chilean "Truth Commission", which had investigated the crimes during Pinochet's rule in 1990 and 1991.

This was the first case - worldwide - in which a foreign former ruler was investigated on the basis of the international law principle of international criminal law . Since Pinochet was in London at the time Garzón was issuing the warrant, Spain applied for extradition to Great Britain . Pinochet was arrested and placed under house arrest, but was released in 2000 on the instructions of British Home Secretary Jack Straw due to his health , after which he was able to return to Chile. Pinochet was also under house arrest several times until his death.

In addition, Garzón expressed repeatedly that he wanted to take action against former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger because of his involvement in Operation Condor in Latin America in the 1970s.

Garzón also initiated proceedings against members of the government of the Argentine military dictatorship in connection with the disappearance of Spanish nationals. As a result of this investigation, the former naval captain Adolfo Scilingo , among others , was sentenced in April 2005 to a 640-year prison term for crimes against humanity, and even to a 1084-year prison term on appeal.


In 2003 Garzón appeared publicly as an opponent of the Iraq war . In January 2003, he sharply criticized the US government for the detention of suspected Al Qaeda activists in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center , Cuba ; In 2009, he opened a case against the alleged torture crimes committed there. He also launched an investigation into six senior members of the former George W. Bush administration , namely former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales , Legal Adviser John Yoo , Defense Secretary Douglas Feith , Defense Department Legal Advisors William Haynes II and Jay Bybee and David S. Addington , former US Vice President Dick Cheney's head of cabinet . This would have legally legitimized acts of torture . However, he also opened various proceedings against alleged members of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden .

Further investigation

In April 2001, Garzón applied to the Council of Europe for the waiver of Silvio Berlusconi's immunity , which he enjoyed as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe .

In December 2001, Garzón initiated the investigation of the foreign accounts of the second largest bank in Spain, BBVA , on suspicion of money laundering .

In 2002, Garzón investigated Jesús Gil , the ex-mayor of Marbella and majority shareholder of Atlético Madrid , on suspicion of corruption. However, the trial did not result in a conviction.

Cases from 2006 and proceedings against Garzón

In 2005/2006 Garzón took a sabbatical year during which he organized a series of lectures at New York University . In 2006 he returned to the Audiencia Nacional, where he continued his work. From 2009 he was, however, with several proceedings for violation of the law faced that against him before the Spanish Supreme Court, the Tribunal Supremo were initiated.

Santander case and first trial against Garzón

One of the cases that Garzón took on after his return from New York was a case of embezzlement against employees of Banco Santander . Following a proposal by the prosecutor involved, Garzón closed the investigation in November 2006, as there was insufficient suspicion. As a result, proceedings against perversion of justice were brought against Garzón because he was sponsored by Banco Santander during his stay in New York and was therefore biased. This emerges from a friendly letter between Garzón and Santander's chairman, Emilio Botín . The proceedings were initially discontinued in March 2009, but reopened in January 2010.

Both the bank and Garzón and New York University stated in April 2010 that Garzón had only received a fee from the university and not from the bank. In addition, the termination of the investigations against Banco Santander was confirmed as lawful by the Tribunal Supremo itself. Nevertheless, the investigation against Garzón was initially continued.

Investigations against the Franco regime and second trial against Garzón

In September 2008, Garzón opened a case for crimes against humanity against numerous high-ranking decision-makers of the Franco regime (including General Francisco Franco himself). A large and controversial media response found in particular his order to open 19 mass graves from the early phase of Franquism, including that of the poet Federico García Lorca, all over the country . The aim was to investigate the deaths of numerous people who disappeared during the dictatorship . However, this measure was stopped by a majority decision by the plenum of the Audiencia Nacional , the National Court of Justice. Garzón himself had previously declared his incompetence , since all suspects had already died, and left the continuation of investigations into the disappeared of Franquism to the local and regional courts.

Nevertheless, the right-wing trade union officials raised Manos Limpias 2009 lawsuit for violation of the law against Garzón, as this would be exceeded with the launch of investigations his skills. Manos Limpias relied on an amnesty law that was passed in 1977 during the Transición and that Garzón knowingly violated. Garzón, on the other hand, referred to international human rights treaties, based on which an amnesty for crimes against humanity is not possible. Although the public prosecutor had opposed it, the case against Garzón was approved by the Spanish Supreme Court in late May 2009. It was later joined by the Falange Española , a small right-wing extremist party that took on the name of the Francoist state party. However, this was later excluded as a plaintiff because of its "ideologically tinged" complaint.

At the beginning of April 2010, investigating judge Luciano Varela decided to initiate the main proceedings, which could possibly end with a professional ban for Garzón. This led to criticism both inside and outside Spain, for example from the New York Times , the Economist , the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Monde . Spanish victims' associations, for their part, brought an action against Varela for perversion of justice.

On May 14, 2010, Garzón was suspended as judge by the Consejo General del Poder Judicial due to the pending trial. In March 2011 he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights about the ongoing proceedings against him .

Belt case and third case against Garzón

In February 2009, Garzón opened an investigation into suspected corruption against several high-ranking members of the then largest Spanish opposition party and the Partido Popular (PP), which has ruled since November 2011 , including members of the regional governments of Madrid and Valencia . This so-called belt case , in which new bribery and donation affairs in the area of ​​the party became known for months, met with extraordinarily large media coverage.

Since Garzón had recently gone on a hunting excursion with the Justice Minister Mariano Fernández Bermejo (PSOE), shortly after the investigation was initiated by the PP, he was accused of planning a political “trial against the whole party”. Fernández Bermejo resigned a few days later due to the severe criticism of the hunting trip, Garzón had to be hospitalized because of an anxiety attack . Shortly afterwards, after the PP brought an action against him for perversion of justice, he handed the case over to the highest courts of the Madrid and Valencia regions, as these were responsible for the implication of immunity holders. The PP's action was dismissed by the Spanish Supreme Court in early April.

After it became known that conversations between suspects and their lawyers had been wiretapped in the course of the investigation into the "Gürtel" case, a new lawsuit was filed against Garzón and approved by the Supreme Court at the end of February 2010. On February 9, 2012, the Senate of the Supreme Court imposed an 11-year professional ban on Baltasar Garzón.

This judgment attracted international attention and was in some cases sharply criticized. In May 2012, the organization Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés submitted a petition for clemency for Garzón to the Spanish Ministry of Justice.

International Criminal Court

On May 6, 2010, Garzón was invited by Luis Moreno Ocampo , Head of the Prosecution of the International Criminal Court , to a seven-month consultancy at the ICC. Garzón then applied for leave of absence from the Spanish judicial office, but did not renounce it in principle. In the weeks before, there had already been rumors that Garzón could transfer to the ICC, as the plaintiffs in the various proceedings against him would then be prepared to suspend the proceedings. However, Garzón had initially refused. Since 2010 Garzón has been involved in the defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange , who is stuck as an asylum seeker in the London embassy of Ecuador. One goal of the joint work is to uphold basic human rights for him despite Assange's stipulations. In 2016, the work of Garzón and his team convinced a group of experts from the UN Human Rights Council to classify Assange's long-standing embassy refuge as a form of unlawful imprisonment that violates international conventions. The way to this decision is the focus of the WDR documentary "In the Trap - Julian Assange and the Justice" from 2017.


In 2002 Garzón published his first book, Cuento de Navidad: es posible un mundo diferente (“Christmas fairy tale : Another world is possible”). In it he expresses himself on various political issues, including human rights , the principle of world law and the International Criminal Court , terrorism , religious fundamentalism, immigration and the rights of indigenous peoples .

Garzón's second book, Un mundo sin miedo (“A World Without Fear”, 2005), which is written in the form of letters to his three children, is autobiographical and describes important highlights of his career as a judge. It also deals with various political issues.

A third book followed in 2006, La lucha contra el terrorismo y sus límites (“The fight against terrorism and its limits”).

In 2008 he finally published La línea del horizonte ("The Horizon Line"), in which he presents his views on various political issues, including impunity and the forgetting of political crimes, migration and education in a globalized world.


On August 27, 2009, Baltasar Garzón Real was awarded the Hermann Kesten Prize of the PEN Center Germany. Herbert Wiesner, General Secretary of the PEN Center Germany, praised Garzón “as an advocate for a world conscience deeply disturbed and injured by state-sanctioned torture”. The Hessian State Minister Eva Kühne-Hörmann called the upcoming award winner a "committed advocate of human rights". However, the award also sparked protests that PEN groups joined as the award went to someone responsible for the detention of Basque journalists on PEN's own "list of persecuted journalists". What is meant is the ban on the daily Egin , which was illegally lifted in 2009, and the arrest of some editors in 1999, as well as the case of the Egunkaria newspaper, which was closed in 2003, in the context of which the Spanish Special Court also initiated controversial proceedings against five "PEN honorary members". He was also accused of supporting the system of non-contact, criticized by human rights groups, which enables political prisoners to be tortured.

Garzón has also been awarded a doctorate honoris causa by 21 universities . With one exception, the University of Jaén , all of these universities are outside Spain, most of them in Latin America. The American Society for International Law awarded him the Goler T. Butcher Medal in 1999 . On May 7, 2011, Baltasar Garzón and Anna Countess von Bernstorff received the Kant World Citizenship Prize in Friborg.


Web links

Commons : Baltasar Garzón  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Spain's leading human rights judge Baltasar Garzon convicted of wiretapping . February 9, 2012, ISSN  0307-1235 ( [accessed May 4, 2020]).
  2. Julio M. Lázaro: 30 condenados en el gran juicio contra la droga , El País , September 28, 1994 (Spanish)
  3. Baltasar Garzón ( Memento of the original from April 9, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ,, May 4, 2010 (Spanish)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Spain's state-sponsored death squads , BBC News, July 29, 1998 (English)
  5. Ramon Pi: 20 años de la Constitución. 1995: La Justicia persigue a Barrionuevo , El Mundo (Spanish)
  6. Estrasburgo confirma la condena a Rafael Vera por el 'caso Marey' , Público , January 7, 2010 (Spanish)
  7. Ralf Streck: Defeat for the Spanish star judge Garzón , Telepolis , May 27, 2009
  8. Garzón ordena el cierre de las sedes y locales de Batasuna para los próximos tres años , El País , August 26, 2002 (Spanish)
  9. Herri Batasuna et Batasuna c. Espagne , press release European Court of Human Rights of June 30, 2009 (.doc, French)
  10. Condenan a 640 años de prisión al militar argentino Scilingo ,, April 26, 2005; José Yoldi: El Supremo eleva a 1,084 años la pena de Scilingo por crímenes contra la humanidad , El País , July 5, 2007 (Spanish)
  11. José Yoldi: Garzón abre una investigación por las torturas en Guantánamo , El País , April 29, 2009 (Spanish)
  12. Jane Mayer: The Bush Six , The New Yorker , April 13, 2009 (English)
  13. El Supremo investiga a Garzón por el dinero que recibió en Nueva York del Banco Santander , La Nueva España , January 29, 2010 (Spanish)
  14. Helene Zuber: Judge Garzón puts the Franco regime in the dock , Spiegel Online , October 16, 2008
  15. El Supremo admite una querella contra Garzón por prevaricación , El País , May 27, 2009 (Spanish)
  16. Katharina Peters: Confusion about Spain's star lawyer Garzón: The judge and his executioner , Spiegel Online , April 24, 2010
  17. "Los crímenes reales son las desapariciones, no la investigación de Garzón" , El País , April 9, 2010 (Spanish)
  18. Natalia Junquera: Familiares de víctimas piden a la justicia argentina que juzgue los crímenes de Franco , El País , April 9, 2010 (Spanish)
  19. ^ Spanish judiciary puts Garzón in the cold , Die Zeit , May 15, 2010; José Manuel Romero: El Supremo vence al juez de la democracia , El País , May 15, 2010 (Spanish)
  20. ^ Garzón denuncia al Supremo ante el Tribunal de Derechos Humanos de Estrasburgo por la causa del franquismo , El País , March 25, 2011 (Spanish)
  21. M. Altozano: El PP pierde en el Supremo su batalla contra Garzón por el 'caso Gürtel' , El País , April 8, 2009 (Spanish)
  22. Julio M. Lázaro: El Supremo deja en precario a Garzón y cuestiona las escuchas a la red Gürtel , El País , February 26, 2010 (Spanish)
  23. Investigative judge Garzón receives an eleven-year professional ban , Die Zeit , February 9, 2012
  24. Vera Gutiérrez Calvo: El indulto de Garzón, una patata caliente para Gallardón , El País , May 18, 2012 (Spanish)
  25. ^ Judge Garzón moves to The Hague , Die Zeit , May 11, 2010; Manuel Altozano: Garzón pide un traslado de siete meses a la Corte Penal Internacional , El País , May 11, 2010 (Spanish)
  26. José Yoldi: Garzón: "Ahora y así, no me puedo ir" , El País , April 19, 2010 (Spanish)
  27. STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft mbH: UN working group believes that Assange is unlawful . In: . ( [accessed on March 3, 2018]).
  28. Marian Bunte: In the trap, Julian Assange between politics and justice, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks . June 15, 2017 ( [accessed March 3, 2018]).
  29. PEN Club press release  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , August 27, 2009@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  30. Ralf Streck: Vortex about Human Rights Prize ( Memento of November 14, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) , Telepolis , November 11, 2009
  31. Óscar Gutiérrez: Garzón puso el cascabel al gato de América Latina , El País , April 16, 2010 (Spanish)
  32. - Awarding of the Kant Prize 2011, accessed on May 10, 2011