Coordinadora estatal de apoyo a la Querella Argentina contra crímenes del franquismo

No Extradition for Franco-Era Police Inspector


MADRID — Spain’s National Court on Wednesday dealt a setback to victims seeking justice for the abuses of the Franco dictatorship by refusing to extradite to Argentina a former police inspector accused of torture during the 1970s, the final years of the Franco regime.

The case of Antonio González Pacheco, a former police inspector in Madrid once known as Billy the Kid, has renewed attention on official mistreatment during the Franco era, as well as on the post-Franco amnesty law that prevents victims from having their cases heard in Spanish courts. Many victims have taken their claims to Argentina, where a judge has invoked the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that certain crimes, like crimes against humanity, transcend borders.

But in Wednesday’s opinion, the National Court in Madrid ruled that the 13 counts of torture brought against Mr. Pacheco in Argentina did not qualify as crimes against humanity because they were “isolated” rather than part of a systemic persecution. The court also noted that in Spain, the statute of limitations on torture expires after 10 years.

Mr. Pacheco, 67, a mysterious figure who entered and left court hearings with a cap pulled tight on his head and a scarf wrapped around his face, could not be reached for comment. It is unclear if the opinion can be appealed to Spain’s Supreme Court.

Ana Messuti, a lawyer in Madrid who represents several victims, said the National Court’s opinion would not close the process in Argentina, and she questioned the court’s argument, since, she said, the United Nations considers torture to be a crime against humanity. Ms. Messuti also noted that international arrest warrants had been issued against Mr. Pacheco and another torture suspect, which will prevent them from leaving Spain.

“This is a long-distance race that requires a lot of persistence,” said Ms. Messuti, who predicted that the opinion would be challenged. “We are getting justice by walking to it.”

José María Galante, who has accused Mr. Pacheco of torturing him during the early 1970s, said he was “furious” with the court opinion.

“I feel ashamed of a country that is unable to look back at its past,” he said in an interview, promising to continue fighting to keep the case alive. “At the end, we will close the case in Argentina, because the Spanish courts will start to look into Franco’s crimes.”

Francisco Franco ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. In transitioning to democracy, Spanish leaders approved an amnesty law in 1977 that absolved everyone — leftists and supporters of the regime — from any crimes during the dictatorship. But more recently, victims groups have argued that Spain must confront its past and hold accountable those who committed atrocities.

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