Embattled Spanish Judge to receive ALBA-Puffin Human Rights Award
Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish magistrate who has headed the effort to identify human rights violations during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship, will receive the first ALBA-Puffin International Award for Human Rights Activism at the ALBA annual reunion in New York City on May 14. (Full press release here; ticket info here; Facebook group here.) “Judge Garzón’s exceptional courage in defense of human rights and his commitment to the recovery of historical memory regarding crimes against humanity make him especially worthy of this honor,” said Peter N. Carroll, chair emeritus of ALBA’s Board of Governors. (Press Release in Spanish here.)
This award is given jointly by ALBA and the Puffin Foundation, which provides an endowed fund exclusively for this annual honor. “The award is designed,” said Puffin Foundation President Perry Rosenstein, “to give public recognition, support, and encouragement to individuals or groups whose work has an exceptionally positive impact on the advancement and/or defense of human rights. It is intended to help educate students and the general public about the importance of defending human rights against arbitrary powers that violate democratic principles.”
Garzón, catapulted to international fame when he ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, is considered today one of the most effective and imaginative thinkers in international human rights law, having defended the victims of dictatorial regimes in Chile, Argentina, and Spain.
In October 2008, at the request of grassroots victims’ organizations in Spain, Garzón determined to carry out an official legal investigation, for the first time in Spain’s history, of crimes against humanity, including torture and forced disappearances, perpetrated against civilians by supporters of the Franco regime. In response to Garzón’s investigation of the Franco years, fringe right-wing groups filed charges against the judge, who now faces suspension from his judicial duties on Spain’s criminal court. (Previous Volunteer coverage of Garzón here.)
ALBA stands in solidarity with Garzón, who, like the men and women who sacrificed so greatly to support Republican Spain in the 1930s, remains steadfastly committed to social and political justice, the exposure of the criminal nature of fascism in Spain, and the struggle for justice and dignity for its victims.
The granting of the ALBA-Puffin award, which includes a cash gift of $100,000 to Garzón, underscores ALBA’s legacy and mission while simultaneously echoing the sentiment of other human rights organizations that have expressed unequivocal support for the embattled magistrate, including Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the World Organization Against Torture.
A pre-event benefit (press release here) will feature a question-and-answer session and the opportunity to meet Judge Garzón over a light lunch. Judge Garzón will be interviewed by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, the on-air legal analyst for CBS-News, NBC-News, and MSNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Sunday morning news talk shows.
Special guests include Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation; Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; and Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The honorary committee for this benefit (now in formation) includes Harry Belafonte, Mike Farrell and Susan Sarandon.