|Judge Baltasar Garzon was “blamed because he did not abide by the rule of oblivion”, says the author [GALLO/GETTY]
Barcelona, Spain – It is difficult to find a clearer example of the relationship between justice and memory than the situation these last few days in the Supreme Court of Spain. For 75 years now, in Spain, memory has been the only arm to fight for justice… The only ally in the combat against impunity. Horrible crimes have been exempt from any investigation during all those years.
Justice, the justice of the courts, the justice of judges, has not considered that the bodies buried in a ditch were an evidence of criminal acts. Whenever they received a report of the discovery of a corpse (or of several corpses), judges filed the case, alleging that “there is no proof of the commission of a criminal act”. Never mind if the claimant associates the body with the disappearance of his or her mother or father or grandparents. Rather, “you have to forget”, say the judges; “you have to forgive”, say the priests.
Memory in search of Justice has not only remained unheard. Memory in search of Justice has been banned. The same as in Athens several hundreds of years before Christ (403 BC) after the defeat of the 30 Tyrants, in Spain now it is forbidden to remember past sufferings.
The doors of court were closed. The crimes were too many, too horrible, to be remembered. They had to be forgotten. Time has already elapsed and must continue to elapse, till all those who remember die. Time passes, and life passes with time.
Now, the justice of the judges wants to punish the only judge who tried to listen to the voices of memory: Judge Baltasar Garzon. So, in Spain, justice for those crimes hinges only in memory. If we remember a crime affecting us, it is only natural to claim for justice. But memory is in the brain of a man or woman, and the brain is in a body, and a body is bound to die.
Spanish judge defends probe into Franco-era
Indeed, human beings are dying every day, a little bit every day, as well as memory… Therefore in Spain, justice is dying every day. Every day, a man or woman whose memory recollects a criminal act dies, the victim has lost any possibility of Justice. As in the Kafka story, the door of the court is closed for him or her forever.
This is not a philosophical reflection on Memory, Justice, Time and Death. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to undertake this kind of reflection when one reads the story recently published in a Spanish newspaper about the late Jesus Pueyo. He has been trying all his life to obtain help from the authorities to find the bodies of his father and other close relatives… almost all his family who has been murdered by the franquists.
He knew they were buried in some ditch, by some road. He wanted to give them a decent burial. He did not want to die leaving them lying as dogs, as poor dogs left dead by the side of the road. The years passed and nobody replied to him. Neither did the King.
This year, in January, Jesus Pueyo received a summons to declare before a court. It was not any court. It was the Supreme Court of Spain. Judges were finally going to hear him, they were finally going to listen to his grievous history.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ statement was not intended to obtain justice for the murder of his father. Actually, he was summoned as testimony for the Counsel of Garzon. Garzon, was the only Judge who chose to fight against time and its passing, who chose not to wait for death to come with time to silence those who had recollections.
In fact, in 2006, Judge Baltasar Garzon decided to initiate a process against the crimes of the Franco period. The Judges decided to judge the Judge, Garzon. He was blamed because he did not abide by the rule of oblivion. Jesus Pueyo was aware of this odd situation.
“He [Jesus Pueyo] did not want to cry before those Judges who had unceasingly tried to silence his memory… and that now wanted to punish the Judge who has tried to open the door to the victims.”
Jesus Pueyo was nervous. He was afraid of being too touched. He did not want to cry before those Judges who had unceasingly tried to silence his memory… and that now wanted to punish the Judge who has tried to open the door to the victims. And he rehearsed several times the declaration he was going to pronounce. He rehearsed and rehearsed.
But it was useless: he will never declare before that court, nor before any court of this world. Jesus died a few days before the date of the summons. And with him also died forever the memory of his father, and the motion towards Justice that was always accompanying that memory. In this particular case, Death trumped Memory and Justice.
The Spanish authorities are in breach of international law at least on two counts: by failing to comply with their obligation to prosecute and sanction crimes against humanity committed in their own territory, and by prosecuting instead that particular Judge who tried to act in accordance with such obligations.
In so far as the Supreme Court of Spain finds that Judge Garzon perverted the course of Justice by trying to investigate Franco’s crimes against humanity, a big step will be taken towards the burial of Memory and Justice.
However, this stance would be arousing such a wave of global fury that its result may eventually work against its holders. Legal actions have already been initiated against Franco crimes elsewhere, notably in Argentina, in exercise of the principles of Universal Justice and in pursuance of peremptory rules of international law.
Memory in search of Justice is Memory in anger. Perhaps, after all, death is not going to trump Justice, as the fury of Memory is going to trump injustice. Sooner or later, one way or other, Justice will have to prevail in Spain.
Ana Messuti is an Argentinean lawyer and holds a PhD in law from the University of Salamanca. She is the author of Time as Punishment and La justicia deconstruida. Follow her website here.