Spain must lift amnesty for Franco era crimes-U.N.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 10 Feb 2012 17:52 GMT
Author: Reuters
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GENEVA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights office said on Friday Spain must probe crimes against humanity committed during the Franco era and must repeal its amnesty for perpetrators as there is no statute of limitations from prosecution.

Rupert Colville, spokesman of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, declined to comment on Thursday's ruling by Spain's Supreme Court which disbarred Judge Baltasar Garzon for 11 years for illegally recording defence lawyers' conversations with clients.

Garzon is on trial in two more cases, one for allegedly abusing his authority by ordering an inquiry into the murder and forced disappearance of more than 100,000 people by forces loyal to the late dictator Francisco Franco. He is charged in that case with violating a 1977 amnesty law.

The judge maintains he acted at the request of the families of victims and that international law backs him.

"Spain is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations including those committed during the Franco regime and to prosecute and punish those responsible if there are any still alive," Colville told a news briefing.

There is also a duty to uphold victims' and their families' right to compensation, he said.

"In accordance with the 2009 Human Rights Committee recommendation, Spain should repeal its amnesty law which is not in conformity with international human rights law," he said.

Colville was referring to recommendations from the U.N. Human Rights Committee, composed of 18 independent experts who monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Spain has ratified the 1966 landmark pact.

The experts recommended specifically that Spain should consider repealing the 1977 amnesty law and reform laws to ensure that domestic courts recognise that the statute of limitations does not apply to crimes against humanity, he said.

Referring to Garzon's amnesty case, he said: "We also believe that judges should not be subject to criminal prosecution for doing their job, for example in this particular case...upholding the international law standard that amnesty should not be granted for serious international crimes since this could violate the principle of judicial independence."

Pillay's office called last month for former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to face prosecution for crimes including torture, rape and killings.

"It is the same principle as we have been talking about for Yemen, for Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti, it is the same principle," Colville said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Louise Ireland)