Spanish judge weighs probe of US federal attorneys on Gitmo

Crusading Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón has asked prosecutors to investigate the US lawyers reportedly behind the establishment of the Guantánamo Bay detention center, Spanish media reported Saturday. Garzón’s request comes after a criminal complaint was filed last week in the Audiencia Nacional against six lawyers from the administration of former US president George W. Bush, including David Addington, John Yoo, and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales.

The lawsuit, brought under Spain’s universal jurisdiction statute, alleges that the six lawyers committed crimes against the international community, as well as crimes against persons and property protected during armed conflict, in violation of the Spanish constitution, as well as the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Garzón, famed for indicting Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet, is well known for his involvement in high-profile investigations of terror and human rights cases. Last October, he ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain, launching an investigation into the disappearances of tens of thousands of people beginning in the Spanish Civil War, and continuing through the early years of the Francisco Franco dictatorship. Garzón has also called for the creation of a “truth commission” to uncover Franco-era abuses. (Jurist, March 28)

Meanwhile, the Barack Obama administration, seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by a US citizen convicted of terrorism-related charges who asserts he was tortured, is in the position of defending John Yoo. Jose Padilla, convicted last year of supporting terrorism, was detained as an “enemy combatant” in the US for three years. He claims Yoo, who argued in government memos that terrorism suspects weren’t protected by Geneva Convention, created a system of torture.

President Obama has ostensibly banned use of torture. His administration on March 2 released documents showing Yoo’s advice had been repudiated as either incorrect or highly questionable. Still, Justice Department attorney Mary Mason said the allegations against Yoo, now a professor at UC Berkeley, don’t meet the legal threshold for holding a federal employee personally liable—drawing a surprised reaction from US District Judge Jeffrey White.

“The allegation is that Professor Yoo knew what the law was, knew that he was not following the law, knew he was not following constitutional precedent, and intentionally gave incorrect information to give cover for illegal activity,” White said at a March 6 hearing in San Francisco. (Bloomberg, March 6)

See our last posts on the Spain and the torture scandal.

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