Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Spanish Case Against USA on Torture

The Daily Beast* is reporting that:
Spanish prosecutors will seek criminal charges against Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantánamo.
Other US officials incriminated are Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

The Spanish legal system allows criminal complaints to be filed by individual civilians, screened by an investigating magistrate, and then referred to a prosecutor's office for preliminary assessment. After the prosecutors make their recommendation, an ultimate decision on pursuing or not pursuing criminal charges follows. This case is at the prosecutor's stage.

It's worth noting that the case against the US officials does not focus on the suggestion that any of them ordered torture. Rather, it accuses them of creating a framework to protect the people that gave the orders, it's a case against the lawyers. This makes it far more likely to result in pursuing criminal charges and if that happens, leaves the door wide open to other charges and other people being incriminated.

However there is a wild card, the article states that:
The Spanish prosecutors advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters. They pressed to know whether any such investigation was pending. These inquiries met with no answer from the U.S. side.
The Spanish courts can dismiss this case if the US open an investigation, though due to Spanish citizens being held in Guantánamo Bay the court is in a very difficult position not to go forward under Spanish law otherwise. Additionally Baltasar Garzon is involved in the case and he's not a man that will back down, his most high profile case was against Augusto Pinochet.

If criminal charges do come from this, it could really set the cat among the pigeons.

*Hat tip to The Spectators Alex Massie

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