As Spanish Human Rights Judge Baltasar Garzón Faces Trial, Meet His Nemesis

Judge Garzón rose to prominence for ordering the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Now, the famed judge is the defendant after a right-wing Spanish attorney accused the crusading magistrate of illegally opening national wounds from the Franco E

Baltasar Garzón, Spanish judge (www_ukberri_net)
Baltasar Garzón, Spanish judge (www_ukberri_net)
Sandrine Morel

MADRID - In his office, just a stone's throw from the headquarters of the Spanish socialist party he so abhors, Miguel Bernad savors his victory. On Tuesday, after almost three years of waiting, the general secretary of the ultra-conservative Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) union finally saw Judge Baltasar Garzón placed in the dock for attempting to investigate disappearances that occurred during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent years of the Francisco Franco dictatorship.

Bernad, a 68-year-old lawyer who represented Spain's far-right Frente Nacional (National Front) party in the European elections of 1989, is the man who filed the complaint in May 2009 against Baltasar Garzón, a celebrity human rights defender, now on trial on charges of abusing his judicial powers.

A believer in "universal justice" and famous for ordering the international arrest of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, Garzón is "a cancer in the Spanish justice system," declares Bernad. The conservative attorney accuses Garzón of knowingly ignoring the country's 35-year-old amnesty law in his attempt to judge abuses committed during the Franco regime. Spain's various political parties signed the so-called "pact of forgetting" in 1977 in order to stabilize the new democracy.

Judge or politician?

The affair began in October 2008, when Garzón, one of the highest-ranking judges in Spain at the time, accepted a complaint lodged by 22 charities representing families who lost members in the Civil War (1936-39) and the ensuing dictatorship (1939-1975).

He declared himself legally eligible to investigate some 114,000 "forced disappearances' carried out in the context of what he describes as a "crime against humanity." Garzón accused dictator Franco and 34 of his generals of an "uprising against the legally formed government" and of "systematically exterminating political opponents." A month after taking on the case, however, Judge Garzón closed it due to a lack of living suspects, transferring responsibility to regional tribunals for opening Spain's Franco-era mass graves.

In the meantime, Bernad and others in the judiciary launched into action against Garzón. "Garzón acted more like a politician than a judge, and used the judicial system for his own glory," says Bernad, who takes pride in having filed 10 different cases against the judge. "He calls himself a "universal" judge, but he only tackles crimes of genocide committed by the right, never those committed by the communists."

Francoism today

Decorated on Dec. 3, 2011 by the Francisco Franco Foundation for his "services in defence of the movement," Migual Bernad denies that he is a "Francoist," insisting that he fights against "all corruption, be it economic, political or moral."

Since he founded Manos Limpias in 1995, he prides himself on having filed more than 1,000 complaints against gay marriage, abortion clinics, corrupt members of Parliament both from the right and the left, and the legalization of the pro-independence Basque Party. He declares the right to denounce "everything that seems illegal – which can be quite a lot in the current day and age."

According to Bernad, Francoism was "an authoritarian regime, perhaps dictatorial, but which quickly became democratic." He says the regime "enabled the transformation of a chaotic situation into one of full employment, where there were fewer rights and less freedom, but more security."

Bernad is not alone in holding this opinion. Indeed, Francoism is still tolerated by a section of Spanish society – by people on both the right and left – who oppose efforts to "reopen the wounds' of the past. Supporters of Garzón, on the other hand, cite the case itself as a sign that certain injuries never healed over in the first place.

Read the original article in French

Photo – www_ukberri_net

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Feed The Future

COP26 Should Mark A Turning Point In Solving The Climate Crisis

Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.

A new dawn?

If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.

The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.

Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.

This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.

It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."

In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.

Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.

Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.

But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.

In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.

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