Judge Baltasar Garzón has specialized in challenging government corruption, organized crime, terrorists, state antiterrorism units, and drug lords. In 1973, Augusto Pinochet led a bloody military coup against democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende of Chile. Pinochet’s seventeen-year reign of terror was characterized by human rights violations on a truly massive scale, including widespread disappearances and extrajudicial killings. In October 1998, Garzón made history when he seized the opportunity to indict Pinochet in Europe, when Pinochet visited London. Garzón’s campaign for justice has set a precedent that heads of state may now be tried for crimes such as torture and genocide, that no person is above the law, and that sovereign immunity does not extend to crimes against humanity.
Judge Garzón has continued his work, despite being targeted for criminal prosecution himself, due to his work in investigating crimes related to the Franco regime. Garzón is the recipient of the first ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism.