MADRID — Spain, whose judges have aggressively pursued human rights abuse cases far beyond its borders, finds itself on the receiving end of such an inquest, as an Argentine judge seeks to extradite and try Spanish police officials accused of torturing opponents of the regime under Francisco Franco, the dictator who died in 1975.
Spaniards claiming to be victims of the abuses filed a lawsuit in Buenos Aires in 2010, after getting nowhere in Spain because of a 1977 amnesty law meant to smooth Spain’s return to democracy.
When the Argentine judge in the case, María Romilda Servini de Cubría, issued arrest warrants recently for four former Spanish officials, she relied on the same principle of universal jurisdiction for human rights issues that the crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón invoked in the 1990s when he tried to prosecute Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator.
Two of the four are dead, but the other two — Jesús Muñecas and Antonio González Pacheco — are expected to be summoned soon by a Spanish judge.
Even if Spain refuses to extradite the men, the request alone is “a very important moral sanction on the Franco regime, which also shows Franco’s victims that they can count on international support,” said Victoria Sanford, professor of anthropology at City University of New York.