Judge Garzón accepts ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism

June 16, 2011
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Marina Garde presents Judge Baltasar Garzón with ALBA-Puffin Human Rights Award as Sebastiaan Faber (far left) and Perry Rosenstein (center left) look on. Photo by Len Tsou.

A new spirit of human rights activism ignited tremendous enthusiasm as 300-plus friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade commemorated the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War at a reunion in New York on May 14.

Five nonagenarian vets are still alive, ALBA Board Chair Sebastiaan Faber explained, but none were able to attend the event. Faber and ALBA Director Marina Garde read touching testimonies to the six Lincoln vets who had died since the last reunion—Norman Berkowitz, Maynard Goldstein, Matti Mattson, Hank Rubin, Peter Schemrock, and Nate Thornton.

But the focus this year was on continuing the struggle for democracy and international justice that carried 2,800 Americans to Spain during the 1930s.

Audience at the New York event. Photo Richard Bermack.

The day’s highlight was the presentation of the first annual ALBA-Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism to Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón. He is the internationally celebrated magistrate who first brought Chile’s dictator August Pinochet to justice in the 1990s and has fought to obtain legal recognition of the tens of thousands of Spaniards who were victims of the Franco dictatorship after the Spanish Civil War. The award of $100,000 is made possible by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.

In presenting a certificate to Judge Garzón, Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation, praised “his unflagging dedication to human rights and universal justice, distinguished legal career, and brilliant work as an advocate for the respect of the rule of law.”

Two other prominent experts in the field of international human rights—Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights (video) and Larry Cox of Amnesty International USA (video)—added their praise for Garzón. Both stressed that their own work for justice was inspired and influenced by the Spaniard’s exemplary legal dedication to international justice.

Click for slideshow. Photos by Len and Nancy Tsou.

Garzón, in turn, extolled the men and women who volunteered to fight against fascism in Spain as examples of courage and solidarity for him and many others. He reaffirmed his own commitment to universal jurisdiction and transitional justice, despite unrelenting criticism in his own country. And he reminded us that we all have a moral and legal obligation to fight against amnesia and indifference, as well as against those who instigated or consented to barbaric acts. (Read the Judge’s full speech here.)

Bruce Barthol, who developed the musical portion of the program, then brought his band back on stage for a stirring finale of “El pueblo unido” and “La Quince Brigada.” Richard Bermack organized the slide show. And the audience cheered vigorously for an amazing, spirited day honoring the legacy of the Lincoln volunteers.

See a slide show here, and a 15-minute video compilation of the New York event here:

2011 ALBA Annual Celebration from David Schwittek on Vimeo.

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