On March 30th former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón wrote a passionate article in El Pais, Spain’s leading newspaper, that called for Spain to create a truth commission to investigate and report on the crimes of the Franco regime during the period 1936-1951.
Such a commission, he said, should be independent and inclusive. It should obtain the testimonies of victims and perpetrators and of experts. Its ultimate report should set forth its factual findings of the historical truth plus the individual and collective reparations owed to the victims.
Moreover, the Spanish Supreme Court judgment that absolved him of any crime in his authorization of a judicial investigation of this subject, Garzón said, acknowledged that the victims of the Franco regime crimes had legitimate aspirations to know what happened, how and why. Now a truth commission would be able to respond to those legitimate aspirations.
According to Garzón, there “are more than 100,000 people missing in the Spanish fields, whose remains remember the dignity of those who demand justice against the indignity of those who took justice away– and the silence of those who allowed it to happen–and thereby assumed the international embarrassment of forgetting and silence.”
Countries like the U.S. that are parties to certain regional organizations like the Organization of American States can be sued for alleged violations of human rights treaties in bodies like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Complaints about a country’s alleged violations can be reported to special rapportuers with specific subject-matter competence for an investigation and report.
Countries like the U.S. that are parties to certain human rights treaties like the Convention Against Torture submit reports to treaty bodies for review and recommendations for improving their compliance with the treaties.
All members of the U.N. are subject to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council and obtain recommendations for ways they can improve their human rights records.
Victims of certain human rights violations can obtain protection through being recognized as a “refugee.”
Truth commissions can investigate and promulgate the results of those investigations as the “truth” of past violations which then can be used as evidence in the previously mentioned procedures.
These various institutions or mechanisms operate independently of one another. Other than the first two, they have limited power to force a recalcitrant government to change its behavior. Yet they also are all engaged in an interactive global struggle against impunity for violators of international human rights norms.