The High Court is denying an Argentinean judge’s extradition request against a former civil guard officer accused of torture under the Franco regime.
The case is being investigated in Buenos Aires after relatives of Franco’s victims ran into a legal wall back in Spain, where the Civil War (1936-1939) and ensuing dictatorship still strike sensitive chords and have yet to be probed in the courts.
Former High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón was suspended from duties in 2010 and later stood trial on charges of overstepping his power when he decided to investigate claims of genocide by these victims.
Jesús Muñecas Aguilar, who used to be known as Civil Guard Captain Muñecas, has been charged with torturing prisoners during the Franco regime. Judge María Servini de Cubría issued an international warrant for his arrest and that of three other suspects in September 2013.
Even if torture were proven, the statute of limitations would have now been exceeded, says the Spanish court
But the Spanish High Court considers that the accusation does not reveal any facts that could be construed as genocide – a crime that has no statute of limitations – and that even if torture were proven, the statute of limitations would have now been exceeded.
The written decision also indicates that Argentina could try to get the case opened in Spain, in the corresponding courthouse in the Basque town of Azpeitia.
“This would give the victims the possibility to access proceedings and, in some way, satisfy their desire for justice,” reads the statement. The High Court argues that the statute of limitations on the crime of torture, which carries a maximum prison term of six years, is 10 years after the offense was committed.
Judge Servini de Cubría is making use of the same principle of universal justice by which the Spain-based Baltasar Garzón investigated crimes under the Argentinean dictatorship (1976-1983) in the 1990s. One military official, Adolfo Scilingo, was convicted and imprisoned in Spain as a result of Garzón’s probe.