Spanish Criminal Prosecutions Use International Human Rights Law to Battle Impunity in Chile and Argentina

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Saturday, February 1, 1997
Richard J. Wilson
On March 28, 1996, Spanish prosecutors, later joined by private citizens, filed criminal charges of genocide and terrorism against former military leaders of Argentina and their collaborators. The action, which began with less than 10 named victims, now includes more than 300 persons of Spanish nationality or their relations lost in the Argentine Dirty War (1976-1983), in which up to 30,000 persons were murdered or disappeared. On July 1, 1996, a similar action was undertaken against the Chilean military junta, which held control there between 1973 and 1989, by prosecutors in Valencia, Spain. Magistrates Baltazar Garzón and Manuel García-Castellón are well-known, aggressive and incorruptible judges who are pressing the prosecutions in the Argentine and Chilean cases, respectively, in separate Madrid courtrooms. Judge Garzón became famous in Spain when he directed investigations into allegations of state involvement in death squad activity against Basque separatist group ETA and its supporters in the mid-1980s, which led, according to many, to the fall of the government of former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez ... [more]