Thursday, August 29, 2002
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
In the first place, I want to express my profound and sincere gratitude to New School University for conferring on me the Honorary Doctor of Laws. This distinction is especially meaningful to me as this institution has a long and outstanding history beginning with its founding in 1919 and its expansion in the 1930s, when it was a University in Exile. It constitutes an honor for me to humbly accompany other renowned national and international personalities who also received distinctions from the New School because of their fight for democracy and human rights.
Moreover, I would like to express my solidarity with
the American people and with this city -monument to tolerance and example
of racial, religious and cultural integration- because of the pain suffered
by their bodies and souls, as a result of the most irrational form of
violence: terrorism. I am making these remarks only 13 days before the
first anniversary of the attack, and with my heart broken also because
my country, Spain, has been suffering for the last 30 years the consequences
of an especially cruel form of terrorism that has destroyed thousands
of households and families.
I would like to extend my gratitude as well to University academic authorities, my friends, and especially to my wife, who is here with me today. I do it because, in "no ordinary times," as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to say, it is especially important that there are people and institutions committed to preventing that pain, anger and violence can succeed in making this world a place in which injustice and insecurity would rule again.
As President Kennedy said when he visited the Berlin Wall in 1962, we all feel like New Yorkers, not once or because of a trip or a crisis, but always, because this city represents an irrefutable proof that peace is possible among different religions and ethnic groups.
In every conflict, massacre, and terrorist attack, innocents are the victims. They are defenseless, attacked and killed in a climate of horror and disgrace. However, no matter how serious the crimes may be, it is important not to lose perspective and calm. We cannot afford forgetting the differences between those, like us, who act according to the Law, and those who choose to act against it.
I am a Judge, and therefore a man that has no weapon but the Law to help the democratic and social state to make real the superior values of the judicial order, liberty, justice, equality and political pluralism.
It is evident that in the last decades there has been a feeling of crisis concerning the values that had previously legitimized social mores. The dominant social ideology promotes, by subtle rather than forceful means, a group of values that surrounds and frames human interchanges.
These are hegemonic and yet contradictory and paradoxical values. The processes of socialization that the new generations endure include elements such as cultural and historic relativism, a pragmatic ethics that proposes that "everything is acceptable," superficial tolerance that in fact consists in a complete lack of commitment, savage competence, egocentric individualism combined with disturbing social conformism, frantic exaltation of ephemeral phenomena and the sick obsession for consumption.
We live in a world threatened by various natural, industrial, economic, and political phenomena, and wars, genocides, and new battles never fought against HIV, poverty, marginality, immigration and xenophobic sentiments. When facing all of these problems, progress and globalization did not contribute to diminish the threat, but they aggravated it.
Perhaps the most serious fact is that even the democratic systems of the First and Second worlds have been generating masses of citizens without name -treated as degraded species for reasons of strict security- leaving out the essential values that must characterize a democratic regime. Therefore, liberty, justice and equality have lost space in favor of national security doctrines, invoked in order to face real or imaginary enemies.
The war against terrorism, after the unjustifiable crimes against humanity that happened in the United States on September 11th 2001 -which will be forever included amongst the genocides and massacres of the gallery of horrors of human beings and their history- has taken the place, in the list of priorities, of other problems whose resolution is essential to attack the causes and not the effects of terrorism.
No crime, no matter how terrible its consequences may be, can justify the implementation of illegal or of dubitable legality- policies that violate perpetrators' human rights. It is even less acceptable to create "lawless spaces," in which the idea of combating these crimes, or state's crimes in court, would be as harmless as a children's game, or as impossible as blocking the sun out with one finger. If this is allowed, the defense and respect for all of these superior values I mentioned before will be shattered into a thousand pieces.
The discourse of Law and legality does not admit any fissure. It requires the strongest severity in order to confront threats to liberty and democracy, such as terrorism, corruption, organized crime or economic delinquency -that endangers the economic and financial system of each country. But at the same time, it demands the highest respect towards Law and the limits of legality, and also towards the rights of both perpetrators and victims.
We should not betray the spirit expressed by Roosevelt on December 7th, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which he referred to a moral, democratic and dialogistic -and at the same time firm- behavior that our faith in this system demands.
This belligerent attitude in defense of the Law vindicates a prominent place for its use as a weapon loaded with future, as a peacemaking instrument, and as a solver of conflicts that respects democratic values of liberty, equality and justice. It proposes the rejection of the reason imposed by force, and the defense of the force of reason combined with the ethics of conviction and the moral authority that legitimizes the action of justice, until it makes clear that there cannot be a long-lasting peace if this peace is unfair.
I sometimes think that our society, because of this culture of appearance and virtuality is superficial, epidermic, and fears observing itself because it risks seeing its image, which is the profile of non-solidarity. Our society does not care about others and shows indifference towards problems of people, living either near to us or in the opposite extreme of the world.
The risk is evident. A society built like this constitutes a simulation that dispenses with the basic values of democracy. It becomes acritic and narcissistic, intolerant and xenophobic, and only wishes for an increase on the standards of security.
To face these problems and dilemmas of both the present and the immediate future, it is necessary to draw a map of philosophical routes that helps us confront the challenges of the twenty-first century. Among those challenges, we find an ethical demand, a political obligation and a democratic need, which is the instrumentation and development of a permanent International Criminal Court, in order to adequately protect the International Community from those crimes that threaten the peace and tranquility of the peoples of the world.
No region in the world is safe, and therefore no state, no matter how powerful it may be, can fight this battle alone. On the contrary, it needs the participation of others and international cooperation. It must never be forgotten that only those societies that are capable of defending themselves with rigor and strength, but without betraying the basic spirit and ideological basis that gave them birth, can survive the passing of time.
In a healthy and strong society, the empire of Law imposes an equilibrium between personal rights and liberties on the one hand, and duties, obligations and respect toward the common interests of the society, on the other. To consecrate a Law equally applied to everyone, avoiding that any individual can be above it, is not only a legitimate aspiration, but also a necessary one.
This equilibrium supposes that principles of democracy and justice go hand in hand, and that they constitute the basic foundations of human security. As Emmanuel Kant expressed, "Liberty is the substance to which morality gives form."
The obligation of each of us is to model and apply the norms that guarantee that peace is not just a few people's utopia.
Institutions such as the International Criminal Court, sadly repudiated by the United States, are institutions of peace, which both promote and reinforce a peaceful sphere of international action for democratic countries, and provide protection to victims of criminal actions.
If a juridically legitimized conscience implies a higher level of ethical behavior, we must conclude that the practice of an universally valid system of justice can and should eliminate every shadow of impunity and also enlarge, by means of its application, the dignity of the human being. The presence of an universally shared common Law, expressed in the principle of Universal Justice, will imply a non-stop fight for human liberty and dignity.
There are still many forgotten human beings, cruelly excluded and beaten by disgraces such as hunger, illiteracy, and despair. In this incomprehensible metaphor of disaster, there are still many corrupt rulers that, without guilt, with the most irritant arbitrariness, impose their inhuman laws upon squashed, humiliated and tortured peoples that consent without rebelling, for fear of violence by the strong.
The most precious value of democracy is liberty, as only in combination with it, democracy acquires dimension and sense. However, this value is not being protected as it deserves, for it is usually taken for granted, instead of being considered as a value that needs to be constantly defended and renewed. This indifference allows the settlement of the "serpent's egg" (fascism). Let us remember Jefferson's expression: "If I could save America's soul or democracy, I would always save democracy."
Democratic liberty must suffer and defend itself day after day against the sectarianisms that intend to eliminate it. As Socrates teaches us, we have to learn, not from the good that educates or kills, but from the evils that could be avoided; not from the truth, but from the lies that can be denounced; not from the beauty, but from the horrors that threaten life, and from the dangers of an uncertain path.
The Spanish poet Antonio Machado used to say: "Today is always still."
We have, here and now, the voice and the word necessary to achieve it.
|Baltasar Garzon Real
New York, 08/29/2002