William Pepper Submits Legal Opinion in Support of Spanish Torture Investigations

Intro: This story originally appeared in the Spanish Publico on May 9, 2009. Predictably, the U.S. press ignored it. Below find an English translation, and note that the translation is cross-posted at the Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground.com.


U.S. Lawyers point to Bush for the tortures

The lawyer of Martin Luther King’s family contributes a thorough report to the Spanish lawsuit to reinforce the charge — The American Civil Liberties Union offers their collaboration

Pere Rusiñol in Madrid (Público)
Translation: Lynn Strother

A group of lawyers in the United States, led by William F. Pepper, the veteran human rights lawyer linked to Martin Luther King’s family, have joined the Spanish lawsuit about Guantánamo and the tortures of the Bush administration. Pepper has contributed a 121 page document to the prosecution, in which he defends Spain’s right to investigate, and suggests that the proceedings be widened to charge former president George W. Bush directly.

The U.S. lawyers also contribute 45 documents to the lawsuit — some, declassified recently; others, of public knowledge for years — that permit the “tracking of the process of decision making” that led to the application of methods equivalent to torture with the detainees of the “war against terrorism”.

All of these documents are now part of the lawsuit that the judge Eloy Velasco is preparing in the National High Court against six lawyers who built the “legal scaffolding” which led to Guantánamo. They will also be included in the twin process being prepared by Baltazar Garzón, in which, besides the charge against the lawyers they demand action against political figures of the Bush administration, like the former head of the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, and his advisor on national security and later Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

The extensive document of the U.S. lawyers requests the investigation be widened to include Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney. “It would be an injustice not to prosecute those who occupied the highest positions of authority. It would be like processing Eichmann and overlooking Hitler”, wrote Pepper before presenting his legal position.

Quote by Conde-Pumpido

The 71 year old lawyer, who studied at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, quotes the Spanish Attorney-General, Cándido Conde-Pumpido to reinforce his petition that Bush also be investigated. Conde-Pumpido charged very severely against the initial lawsuit — presented only against Bush’s lawyers — and classified it as “fraudulent” because it was directed against the lawyers and not the responsible politicians.

The double investigation by the Spanish High Court about the legalization of practices equivalent to torture — like waterboarding — have already made strong inroads in the U.S. and not only in the form of editorials in the related press.

The Obama administration will have to answer a plea commission sent by Judge Velasco interested in learning if there is an ongoing investigation in the U.S. And the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has made it clear that he intends to collaborate with the judicial requirements of other countries, in spite of the poisonous campaign against started by heavyweight neocons like John Bolton.

The lawyers in the U.S. have also taken the lawsuit in Spain very seriously. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , the important NGO for civil rights, which forced the declassification of secret memoranda of the CIA, sent the investigator Jameel Jaffer to Madrid for three days. He offered the support of the organization so that Spain could go ahead with the prosecution.

Recruiting lawyers

Pepper’s group is now recruiting lawyers to also put them at the disposition of the lawsuit and create a network of support that includes activists and NGOs. He wrote the report, that is already at the disposal of Spanish justice, himself. “It has been many hours of work, but I think this has been the most important case in my life for the advancement of international human rights law”, he explained to Público from Washington, his base of operations besides London.

Cover of Publico with photo of President Bush
William F. Pepper leads a group of US lawyers to join the Spanish lawsuit about Guantanamo and the tortures of the Bush administration.

The document analyzes the presumed responsibility of Bush and his team from the 45 official texts received — from the declaration of national emergency, the 14th of September 2001, up to the recently declassified memoranda – , but it concentrates on reinforcing the right of Spain to apply universal jurisdiction because no lawsuit has been made in the U.S.

“The crimes that have been committed are a clear violation of international law. Not only have the obligations that most nations impose on each other by treaties been violated, but also the basic rules built up over centuries”, Pepper concludes.

An icon for the civil rights NGO

William E.Pepper has been an example for the groups in the United States that defend civil rights for 40 years. He was one of Martin Luther King’s close friends when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, and later became the lawyer of reference of the family in their crusade to unmask who really was behind the crime.

Pepper has consecrated his life to this lawsuit, even defending James Earl Ray, who was found guilty for the assassination; and who the family of King always considered a mere sacrificial goat to avoid the exposure of those really responsible. Pepper has published several books about these proceedings, the most recent of which is: An Act of State (in Spain, Un acto de Estado, published by Foca).

In the book, Pepper points to the CIA and the FBI as part of the plan to eliminate the bothersome King. The book has been praised by Ramsey Clark, who was the attorney-general of the U.S. when the black leader was assassinated.

Pepper, who lives between the United Kingdom and the United States, has always combined his role as a lawyer — educated at Columbia, researcher at Oxford and lecturer at the best universities in the U.S., from Princeton to Harvard — with that of activist, which led him to Vietnam as a journalist. He has also specialized in international law.

At 71 years old, he considers this lawsuit opened in Spain to be the most important one of his life towards claiming international responsibility and intends to dedicate body and soul to it.

Daily Kos

Democratic Underground

VIAOriginally published in Publico
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