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Pinochet judge seeks criminal probe of Bush 'torture lawyers'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Saturday March 28, 2009


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UPDATE: A Spanish judge has approved a probe of torture complaints against former Bush officials. Details below...


Spanish official says arrest warrants 'highly probable'

Six Bush-era officials responsible for crafting the legal justifications permitting the military prison at Guantanamo Bay are the subject of a Spanish criminal probe which could place the men under serious risk of arrest if they travel outside the United States.

"[Spanish newspaper] Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith," noted Scott Horton at Harper's.

He called them Bush's "torture lawyers."

On March 17, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, published an editorial in the Washington Note which accused Bush officials of knowingly holding innocent men in Guantanamo Bay for years.

"The case was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who indicted the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet," reported the New York Times. "The official said that it was 'highly probable' that the case would go forward and could lead to arrest warrants."

If the judge decides to open an investigation, it will be the first such legal action outside the United States, the private Cadena Sur radio said.

The Association for the Dignity of Prisoners, which filed the case, said the six should be taken to task for virtually authorizing torture at the center, where more than 800 men and teenagers have passed through since it opened in January 2002.

The full criminal complaint, translated from Spanish to English via Google, is available on-line.

"The move was not entirely unexpected as several human rights groups have been asking judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials," noted the Times. "One group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked a German prosecutor for such an indictment, but the prosecutor declined."

Spain operates under the principle of "universal jurisdiction," a doctrine that allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture, terrorism or war crimes.

A similar probe is ongoing in the United Kingdom.

3-29-09 update: A senior Spanish judge has ordered prosecutors to investigate former Bush officials to determine if they should be charged with crimes related to the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, CNN reported Sunday. Prosecutors will review the complaint and make a decision about whether a crime was committed within five days. From the CNN report:
Investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon has passed a 98-page complaint to prosecutors that accuses former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and five others of being the legal architects of system that allowed torture in violation of international law, human rights lawyer Gonzalo Boye told CNN...

Garzon accepted the complaint under Spanish law because there were several Spaniards at Guantanamo who allegedly suffered torture.

The complaint was filed in March 2008 by Boye and the Association for the [Dignity] of Prisoners.

The full report is here.

With wire reports.


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