March 28, 2009
NEW YORK (Reuters) — A top Spanish court has moved toward starting a
probe of six former Bush administration officials including ex-Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales in connection with alleged torture of prisoners at Guantánamo
Bay, The New York Times said on Saturday.
The criminal investigation would focus on whether they violated international
law by providing a legalistic justification for torture at the U.S. detention
camp in Cuba, the Times said.
The paper said the National Court in Madrid had assigned the case to judge
Baltasar Garzon, known for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto
Garzon has accepted the case and sent it to the prosecutor’s office for review,
the newspaper said, citing an official close to the case.
The complaint, prepared by Spanish lawyers with the help of U.S. and European
legal experts, also names John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who
wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent
the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense
Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents
who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay say they were tortured there.
The other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for
the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo’s former boss at the Justice Department’s
Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser
to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Yoo, already the subject of a Justice Department ethics investigation, declined
to comment to the Times. The others either could not be reached or did not immediately
respond to requests for comment, the Times said.
Gonzalo Boye, a Madrid lawyer who filed the complaint, said the six Americans
had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining
torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention, the
Spanish court considers trying former US officials
by Paul Haven, Associated Press Writer
March 28, 2009
MADRID — A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case
against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture
at Guantánamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.
Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar
Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit,
Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated
The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy
Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington;
Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer
“The charges as related to me make no sense,” Feith said Saturday.
“They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never
Yoo declined to comment. A message left at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
in San Francisco where Bybee is now a judge was not immediately returned. A
message left at Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif., where Haynes reportedly
works as an attorney was not immediately returned.
Spanish law allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture
or war crimes under a doctrine of universal justice, though the government has
recently said it hopes to limit the scope of the legal process.
Garzon became famous for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet in 1998, and he and other Spanish judges have agreed to investigate
alleged abuses everywhere from Tibet to Argentina’s “dirty war,” El
Salvador and Rwanda.
Still, the country’s record in prosecuting such cases has been spotty at best,
with only one suspect extradited to Spain so far.
When a similar case was brought against Israeli officials earlier this year,
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos assured his Israeli counterpart that
the process would be quashed.
Even if indictments are eventually handed down against the U.S. officials,
it is far from clear whether arrests would ever take place. The officials would
have to travel outside the United States and to a country willing to take them
into custody before possible extradition to Spain.
The officials are charged with providing a legal cover for interrogation methods
like waterboarding against terrorism suspects at Guantánamo, which the Spanish
human rights lawyers say amounted to torture.
Yoo, for instance, wrote a series of secret memos that claimed the president
had the legal authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions.
President George W. Bush always denied the U.S. tortured anyone. The U.S. has
acknowledged that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described plotter of Sept.
11, and a few other prisoners were waterboarded at secret CIA prisons before
being taken to Guantánamo, but the Bush administration insisted that all interrogations
Boye said he expected the National Court to take the case forward, and dismissed
concerns that it would harm bilateral relations between the two countries.
He said that some of the victims of the alleged torture were Spaniards, strengthening
the argument for Spanish jurisdiction.
“When you bring a case like this you can’t stop to make political judgments
as to how it might affect bilateral relations between countries,” he told
the AP.” It’s too important for that.”
Boye noted that the case was brought not against interrogators who might have
committed crimes but by the lawyers and other high-placed officials who gave
cover for their actions.
“Our case is a denunciation of lawyers, by lawyers, because we don’t believe
our profession should be used to help commit such barbarities,” he said.
Another lawyer with detailed knowledge of the case told the AP that Garzon’s
decision to consider the charges was “a significant first step.” The
lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk
to the media.
There was no immediate comment from Garzon or the government.
The judge’s decision to send the case against the American officials to prosecutors
means it will proceed, at least for now. Prosecutors must now decide whether
to recommend a full-blown investigation, though Garzon is not bound by their
The proceedings against the Bush Administration officials could be embarrassing
for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been keen to
improve ties with the United States after frosty relations during the Bush Administration.
Zapatero is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama for the first time on
April 5 during a summit in Prague.
Associated Press writers Harold Heckle in Madrid and Lisa Leff in San Francisco
contributed to this report.