Universal Jurisdiction (English)

Judge Baltasar Garzón has been active in the area of ​​massive violation of fundamental rights (genocide, crimes against humanity) and terrorism. He has been a pioneer in Spain in the application of the criteria of Universal Jurisdiction. His actions in countries such as Argentina and Chile have been essential to the victims of these crimes around the world who have new hope of truth, justice and repair.



Garzón investigated criminal acts – genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism during the military dictatorship in Chile (1973-1988) – with Spanish victims. The principle of Universal Criminal Justice was applied. On October 16 he ordered the arrest of the former head of state, with the British authorities granting it the same day, for the purpose of extradition. Although political decision by the former president was returned to Chile where he continued to be tried, the extradition was favourably resolved by Judge Ronald Bartlle for Spain.

Similarly he addressed investigations into money laundering and concealment of assets against Augusto Pinochet and others, related to funds found in the Ribb U.S. bank, obtaining substantial compensation for victims.



Pinochet’s arrest

On October 16, 1998, the house arrest of General Augusto Pinochet, at the request of Judge Baltasar Garzón, which relied on the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, marked a milestone in the treatment of criminal perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The case against the Chilean dictator accused of human rights violations in Chile – charges included 94 allegations of torture of Spanish citizens, the murder in 1975 of the Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria and conspiracy to commit torture – lasted 16 months, until the House of Lords ruled that Pinochet was not entitled to immunity and could be tried.

Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, praised the decision of the House, stating that it was clear that torture is an international crime subject to universal jurisdiction. Amnesty International and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture called for the extradition of the General to Spain. For its part, Chile withdrew its ambassador in Madrid for a time to protest the actions of Spain.

The house arrest of Pinochet in London, where he had gone for medical treatment, lasted 503 days. His defence argued his failing health, and after medical tests, British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, decided that he should not be extradited to Spain. Despite protests from organizations defending human rights, in March 200 Pinochet was able to return to Chile.


The image of a helpless old man in a wheel chair leaving British territory contrasted with his upright figure after landing at the airport in Santiago, Chile on March 3, 2000.

Pinochet finally died on December 10, 2006 without being convicted of any crime, even though more than 300 criminal charges were brought against him in Chile.



Garzón led an investigation into the crimes committed during the military dictatorship in Argentina where there were Spanish victims (March 1976, December 1983). Of particular note is the indictment against 99 people, including top military officials as suspects of criminal events in Argentina between March 24, 1976 and December 1983; 48 international warrants for arrest; the request to Argentina for their extradition.

The prosecution of one of the repressors sentenced for crimes against humanity, in Madrid, represented a historic landmark as important as the arrest of Augusto Pinochet, and obtaining the extradition from Mexico of other repressors, thus reassuring the effectiveness of the principle of universal justice. The latter was finally handed over to Argentina and sentenced in 2011.

Since 2003, with the collaboration of President Nestor Kischner, cases in Argentina resumed against those responsible for these crimes, with various sentences given and trials and investigations continuing to this day. From that moment, the central court No. 5 of the High Court of Spain has provided the cooperation requested for the development of trials and to provide protection to victims.



Adolfo Scilingo and the death flights

On November 2, 1999 Baltasar Garzón indicted Adolfo Scilingo along with 97 other Argentines, which included several members of the military junta, all accused of crimes of genocide, terrorism and torture between 1976 and 1983.

It had been two years since the Argentine naval officer voluntarily travelled from Buenos Aires to Madrid to confess before the Spanish judge of his involvement in the so called «death flights.» During these military flights, tens of Argentine military regime opponents were released into the sea at night, alive or unconscious, from helicopters or airplanes in flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

In April 2005, he was tried for crimes against humanity committed between 1976 and 1977 and, having proved his responsibility in the death of thirty people and an illegal detention followed by torture, was sentenced to 640 years in prison. In July 2007, after checking complicity in 255 other illegal detentions, the Spanish Supreme Court increased the sentence to 1,084 years.



International legal cooperation

Over 22 years in the post of Judge of the Central Court of Instruction No. 5 of the High Court, Garzón gained extensive experience in international legal cooperation with numerous countries, including Latin America: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Panama, Guatemala, The Bahamas, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

In Europe: France, Britain, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Albania, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Andorra, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Monaco, Norway, Liechtenstein, Jersey, Russia, and Greece.

In Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Cape Verde and Mozambique.

In Oceania: Australia; in Asia: Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, China, Laos and Indonesia.

North America: Canada and USA.

With international organizations: International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and Justice Committee of the U.S. Senate in the Pinochet case, among others.

The internationalization of criminal investigations under the jurisdiction of the High Court impose great dedication and an inertia that if not properly controlled and directed can frustrate much of the investigation started. Therefore knowledge, harmony and a good relationship with the judiciary, police and political-institutional bodies of other countries are essential.

The work of institutional and personal closeness is crucial to the success of good cooperation in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, financial crime, and crimes against humanity. Good relationships with colleagues and coordinated estates is basic as well as the development of cooperation projects or initiatives such as L ‘Appel de Geneve 1996 created by seven judges which included Garzón and European prosecutors and which marked the beginning of a groundswell of cooperation between the different European countries.

The magistrate likewise promoted numerous open rogatory commissions for joint action; simultaneous operations with up to 10 countries in the Green Ice case in 1991. Live arrests between Spain and France.; or Portugal; or Italy would not have been possible without that opening abroad. Figures of controlled deliveries, delivery of people, test transmissions, opening partnerships, overcoming reluctance, development of cooperation were possible, largely thanks to the pioneering personal contacts and the existence of the High Court itself.

Contacts with countries far removed from the Spanish legal system like Saudi Arabia and with as many difficulties as the U.S. were unblocked after the relevant views and efforts of explanation; or international terrorism investigations on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with intense coordination and cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office.

Western Sahara

Investigation on terrorism, genocide and torture, under the Universal Principle of Justice, committed in the Western Sahara and in which different political and military leaders of Morocco were charged.



In 2000, the Argentine poet Juan Gelman provided a complete list of Uruguayan repressors to Baltasar Garzón

On Wednesday, November 8, 2000, the Argentine poet Juan Gelman and his partner, Mara La Madrid, testified before the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón. Gelman gave the judge the names of 43 Uruguayan military personnel and police who had key positions in the structure of repression during the years 1975 and 1976 and requested they be tried. It was some 35 army officers, two Navy officers and six of the police.

The Argentine relived the history of the persecution suffered by his family before Garzón who was investigating the disappearance, torture and killings of some 600 Spanish during the Argentine military regime between 1976 and 1983.

Gelman had taken thirteen years to find the remains of his son who was killed and thrown into a cement drum after being kidnapped by the Argentine military in 1976, and he reconstructed the tragedy of his daughter-in-law, who was taken to a secret prison in Montevideo (Uruguay) and then to a military hospital to give birth.

His son’s wife was killed in late December 1976, when she was only 19 years old, and the girl was «deposited» at the gates of the house of a policeman and his wife, who became her parents.

Extraditions former Yugoslavia

Garzón has acted in passive extradition as well as the European Arrest Orders of the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, procedures in which the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction