Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spanish judge accuses six top Bush officials of torture.

And so it begins...

Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has initiated criminal proceedings in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay.

And the only thing that could stop these prosecutions going ahead would be if criminal proceedings were being held against these men in their own country.

The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people," Boyé told the Observer. "This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead."

The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney's chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon's general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.

Court documents say that, without their legal advice in a series of internal administration memos, "it would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantánamo]".

Boyé predicted that Garzón would issue subpoenas in the next two weeks, summoning the six former officials to present evidence: "If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer."

Whilst I am happy at the people named, I do feel a sense of disappointment that the names Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are not also on the Spaniard's list, as they surely deserve to be prosecuted as much as anyone else. However, I do understand that the Spaniards have deliberately gone for second-tier figures in the hope of being less politically explosive.

If Garzón decided to go further and issued arrest warrants against the six, it would mean they would risk detention and extradition if they travelled outside the US. It would also present President Barack Obama with a serious dilemma. He would have either to open proceedings against the accused or tackle an extradition request from Spain.

Obama administration officials have confirmed that they believe torture was committed by American interrogators. The president has not ruled out a criminal inquiry, but has signalled he is reluctant to do so for political reasons.

"Obviously we're going to be looking at past practices, and I don't believe that anybody is above the law," Obama said in January. "But my orientation's going to be to move forward."

This was always likely to be the problem with Obama's, "let's just look forward, not backward" scenario. International law obligates other countries to take action if the nation of those suspected of war crimes does not take steps to prosecute them.

However, because of the political difficulties Obama feels regarding criminal proceedings against the Bush administration, one can't help but think that Spain are doing his dirty work for him by pointing out that there is a clear and criminal case to be answered here and, in the nicest possible way, threatening Obama that if he doesn't take action, other countries will.

Philippe Sands, whose book Torture Team first made the case against the Bush lawyers and which Boyé said was instrumental in formulating the Spanish case, said yesterday: "What this does is force the Obama administration to come to terms with the fact that torture has happened and to decide, sooner rather than later, whether it is going to criminally investigate. If it decides not to investigate, then inevitably the Garzón investigation, and no doubt many others, will be given the green light."

Germany's federal prosecutor was asked in November 2006 to pursue a case against Donald Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary, Gonzales and other officials for abuses committed in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But the prosecutor declined on the grounds that the issue should be investigated in the US.

The Obama team can fend off the Spaniards if they decide to mount an investigation of their own, otherwise Obama may find himself in the highly embarrassing position of being asked to extradite US officials on torture charges to Spain.

The charges against the US officials are crystal clear and almost universally acknowledged as constituting torture:

"All the accused are members of what they themselves called the 'war council'," court documents allege. "This group met almost weekly either in Gonzales's or Haynes's offices."

In a now notorious legal opinion signed in August 2002, Yoo and Bybee argued that torture occurred only when pain was inflicted "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".

Another key document cited in the Spanish case is a November 2002 "action memo" written by Haynes, in which he recommends that Rumsfeld give "blanket approval" to 15 forms of aggressive interrogation, including stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations and nudity. Rumsfeld approved the document.

The 1984 UN Convention against Torture, signed and ratified by the US, requires states to investigate allegations of torture committed on their territory or by their nationals, or extradite them to stand trial elsewhere.

And it does not help these former US officials that, here in Britain, the attorney general, Lady Scotland, has already begun a criminal investigation into whether MI5 took part in the torturing of Binyam Mohamed.

This means that what they approved in the dark will be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the light. And no British politician will dare try to stop an investigation into what was done to Mohamed at America's bequest.

Everywhere, apart from in the US itself, there is an appetite to route out the torturers and to deliver justice. Obama can resist this for only so long before he receives an extradition request from another country demanding that he makes a decision.

And, the fact that criminal proceedings are taking place within the country that has been the US's greatest ally in the war on terror can only increase the pressure on Obama to comply. A lot of this stuff is going to come out anyway, Obama will have to decide on what side of history's fence he would like to place himself.

Click title for full article.


nunya said...

"Everywhere, apart from in the US itself, there is an appetite to route out the torturers and to deliver justice."


I'd like to see them all convicted at the Hague.

I also understand that Obama needs to deal with the global economy first.

Kel said...

I am glad that you disagree so strongly, Nunya. Do you seriously think that Obama is going to bring charges against the Bush regime for war crimes?

I'd love to share your optimism. Indeed, I've said before that I think he's releasing all these papers showing what the Bush regime did as a way of stirring the public into anger, hoping that they will demand prosecution, but I am still not convinced that he will go ahead with it.

I hope that you are right.

nunya said...

The public has been angry, I just don't think the world is aware of how angry because of the lousy msm (mainstream media). They've been asleep on the job for years. I wonder sometimes if people outside the country know just how scared of the power structure some of us are?

Here is an example of what I mean.

San Diego really is a police state: SDNN refused press passes by police until they “prove” themselves

Kel said...

The public has been angry, I just don't think the world is aware of how angry because of the lousy msm (mainstream media).

I hope Obama realises this and that he brings prosecutions for the people who took part in torture. Sure, there will be the inevitable right wing noise, but here in Britain the police are already looking into whether or not we were involved in torturing people in any way, even if all we did was ignore the fact that a British resident was being tortured. But the people who created that policy were the Bush administration.

nunya said...

It's bad enough that Americans will pay for this stupid war, but the Brits?

I'm so sorry.

Did you read the article?

It was written by someone who ran for office here in San Diego where the power structure are allergic to Democrats. They have the means to slander and libel through the Republican controlled press. You can guess how that election went, eh?

Part of the problem is also the voting machines. My dad was a computer programmer (de-bugger) for years, and a Republican. One time I asked him if he trusted the voting machines? He snorted and said "NO!"

Kel said...

Yes, I did read it Nunya. It's an astonishing thing when the police get to say when reporters are "ready" to be allowed to question them.

One could read that as "when you have learned your place".

So much for the brave Fourth Estate we hear so much about. As Stephen Colbert might say, "Fiction!"

nunya said...

"So much for the brave Fourth Estate we hear so much about. As Stephen Colbert might say, "Fiction!""


There are some brave reporters, it's just that most of them cannot get a job working for mainstream media outlets. Some of the left leaning bloggers have become respected news outlets in the last five years.

Josh at TPM, won a Polk award, the same award that Bill O-Liely lied about getting.

Arianna Huffington over at the HuffPo recently got the money together to pay for real investigative journalism. In a very short time her blog has become the most popular blog according to technorati.

Glenn Greenwald started out as a blogger, now he's at Salon

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now has always been good. She was arrested for trying to find out why her producers were assaulted and arrested by the cops while covering the RNC. The video is harrowing to watch.

AlterNet is good, the girls at firedoglake are pretty good, they have covered some political trials that the public wanted to know about, but the msm ignored.

And, of course there is Colbert and Stewart, who are only funny to Americans who are informed. They get that way by sifting through the left leaning blogs. :)