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Press Release


  April 19, 2006

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who rose to international prominence after ordering the arrest of ex-Chilean general Augusto Pinochet in 1998, told an audience at the Organization of American States (OAS) that "the judiciary can and should embody the endeavor to enforce the law and eradicate impunity."

He was delivering the keynote presentation, entitled "Judicial Power and Impunity," for the 13th conference in the OAS Lecture Series of the Americas, held Tuesday at OAS headquarters.

The Spanish jurist, who was welcomed by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, said impunity is a murky state in which judicial silence is accepted by a country's ruling class. A responsible judicial system must take urgent action when society perceives there are no limits to breaking the law, according to Garzón, who said the responsibility of judges is vital to credibility.

Garzón said the power of judges should be broad but "conforming to the laws of each state," adding that "the greater the power, the greater the responsibility to protect citizens. A judge should be in tune with society, to be able to address citizens' problems, and should become an integral part of the system and enforce the law accordingly."

Judge Garzón called for international support from an integrated perspective to combat impunity. This is not a sovereignty issue, he said, adding that the fight against impunity requires applying justice and restoring victims' dignity.

The Chairman of the OAS Permanent Council, Ambassador Ellsworth John of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, introduced Garzón, noting his expertise and wide-ranging experience in the area of international judicial authority. In addition to ordering the arrest of Osama Bin Laden following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, during his distinguished career he has investigated terrorist groups operating in Spain, including ETA, al Qaeda cells and Islamic terrorist organizations. John noted as well that Judge Garzón has also investigated drug trafficking, organized crime and financial crimes, as well as torture and other crimes against humanity.

Created by the OAS Permanent Council to promote democratic principles and values in the countries of the hemisphere, the Lecture Series of the Americas invites internationally renowned speakers to address key issues of the hemispheric agenda, such as the strengthening of democracy, human rights, social development, hemispheric security and the fight against poverty. The conferences are being held thanks to a financial contribution from Peru’s San Martín de Porres University and support from the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Hellenic Republic.

Reference: E-094/06