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Crusading Spanish Judge Sets Sights on Corporate and Environmental Crimes

Baltasar Garzón is pushing the idea that economic and environmental crimes be considered crimes against humanity, akin to torture or genocide.

Baltasar Garzón, 59, is currently head of Julian Assange's legal team. (Photo: Fundación Cajasol/flickr/cc)

Famed Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, known for having put Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on trial for genocide in 1998, has reportedly "set his sights on widening the definition of international law to target corporations that carry out economic or environmental crimes," the Guardian reported on Thursday. 

Garzón—who has taken on alleged torture and ill-treatment of inmates at the U.S. prison of Guantánamo Bay; crimes committed during the reign of Francisco Franco; and the political persecution of WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange—will now turn his focus toward corporate crime.

Next month, according to the Guardian, he and other leading human rights activists, judges, and academics from a dozen countries will come together at a conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina to push forward the idea that economic and environmental crimes be considered crimes against humanity, akin to torture or genocide.

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The Guardian reports:

Actions that could be considered criminal, said Garzón, include those of the so-called vulture funds that undermine countries’ debt restructuring, or companies that turn a blind eye to the abusive exploitation of natural resources such as coltan, used in mobile phones, digital cameras and computers.

These actions fit within the definition of crimes against humanity, as they affect certain sectors of the population and trample on human rights, he said. Referring to environmental crimes, he said: “We’re seeing how climate change is connected to natural disasters and famines.”

Garzón knows he will face an uphill battle. "The problems will come when this initiative affects powerful countries, such as the United States, China or Israel," he said. "But little by little the path will be paved."

While such crimes could be very difficult to prosecute right now, he told EuroWeekly, "in 10 years they will be at the center of debate."

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