Posts Tagged ‘Baltasar Garzon’

Spain: Garzón Trial Threatens Human Rights

January 15, 2012

Spanish Judge Challenged Amnesties in Spain, Worldwide

Human Rights Watch, January 13, 2012
  • Judge Baltasar Garzón leaves the Spanish High Court in Madrid on April 14, 2010.
    © 2010 Reuters
What bitter irony that Garzón is being prosecuted for trying to apply at home the same principles he so successfully promoted internationally. Thirty-six years after Franco’s death, Spain is finally prosecuting someone in connection with the crimes of his dictatorship – the judge who sought to investigate those crimes.
                —Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch

(Madrid) – The upcoming trial of the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón for investigating abuses from Spain’s past threatens the concept of accountability in Spain and beyond, Human Rights Watch said today.

Garzón’s prosecution in a second case, for issuing a judicial instruction to intercept lawyer-client communications in a corruption scandal, raised questions as to whether the judge is facing retaliation for his actions in controversial cases.

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Spanish Judge Accused of Establishing the History of Atrocities committed by the Franco Dictatorship

May 22, 2010
by Ignacio Ramonet
Global Research, May 19, 2010
IPS – 2010-05-01
For the dead man here abandoned, build him a tomb.” Sophocles, Antigone (442 A.D.)

PARIS — “Senseless”, “astounding” , “unheard of” … The world press, human rights associations, and the finest international jurists can’t get over it. Why is the Spanish judicial system, which has done so much in recent years to punish and prevent crimes against humanity in many parts of the world, bringing charges against Baltasar Garzon, the judge who best symbolises the contemporary paradigm of applying universal justice?

The international media know well the merits of the “superjudge”: his transcendental role in the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998; his denunciation of the atrocities committed by the military in Argentina, Guatemala, and by other Latin American dictatorships; his efforts to dismantle the GAL (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups, formed by the Spanish government to fight the ETA Basque separatists) and prosecute socialist premier Felipe Gonzalez; his opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and even his recent trip to Honduras to warn the coup participants that crimes against humanity are imprescriptible.

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April 13, 2009

by Paul Cantor

Former President George W. Bush may be indicted for torture.

Far fetched?  Not anymore.

In March Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge, asked prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence to charge six former members of the Bush administration with torturing prisoners.  Should they be indicted as now seems likely it will be hard to argue that their superiors up to and including the former President himself should not be indicted as well.

Imagine if that should happen and a trial take place. It would rivet the attention of the world like no legal action since the prosecution of German and Japanese officials after World War II.  More importantly, it would provide credence to the concept of universal jurisdiction championed by Judge Garzón.

Universal jurisdiction is the principle that certain crimes are so egregious and/or such a threat to world peace that those who commit them may be arrested and tried in any country of the world.  Torture is one of those crimes.

Who was most responsible for the torture during Bush’s “war on terror?”  Was it the functionaries who carried it out, the members of the administration who justified it, or the Torturer in Chief who authorized it?  And if any or all of them are left unpunished what does it say about the commitment of our nation to the rule of law and human rights?  The world knows we can talk the talk.  The question it is asking is will we walk the walk.

Walk the walk would mean leading the charge to bring those who violated our laws and international law by torturing prisoners to justice.  That is what President Obama should be doing.  Instead he says “look forward not back.”

We tortured native Americans.  We tortured slaves.  We tortured prisoners under the Phoenix program in Vietnam. At the School of the Americans we taught future dictators to torture.  We supported governments that torture their opponents.  Nevertheless, because in our words if not always in our actions we also promoted human rights and the rule of law, the Statue of Liberty was the icon of our country for more than 100 years.

George Bush changed that.  Now, because he authorized the torture of people he termed “illegal enemy combatants” the icon of our country is a hooded prisoner with wires attached standing on a box in a prison in Iraq.    Still, President Obama says, “let’s just ignore all that.”

Baltasar Garzón, on the other hand, says, “let’s not.”

Garzón is best known for bringing about the arrest of the former dictator of Chile,  Augusto Pinochet, under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.  Pinochet was apprehended in 1998 while visiting England.  It was the first time the doctrine was applied for crimes against humanity.

Now Garzón is asking the public prosecutor in Spain to determine if a David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, William Haynes, John Yoo, and Aberto Gonzáles may be charged with violating laws that prohibit the mistreatment of prisoners by providing President Bush with the legal rationale for ordering “harsh interrogation” techniques.  “Harsh interrogation” is a euphemism for torture.

Harsh interrogation meant being chained for days with hands extended over the head, being denied toilet facilities, prolonged nudity, waterboarding (a form of torture in which the victim is suffocated to the point of dying), severe beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold temperatures, prolonged solitary confinement, and more.  That, according to a Red Cross report, is how suspected terrorists held by the U.S. were treated.

Yet after pictures of U.S. army personnel torturing prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq surfaced on the web in 2004 the Bush administration maintained that they depicted the actions of a few rogue soldiers.  “We do not torture,” the President said in 2005 even though his administration had long before sought and obtained legal cover from the six former officials now being investigated by Garzon for interrogators to use “harsh interrogation techniques” against suspected terrorists.

“Behind much of the savagery of modern history,” wrote Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, “lies impunity.  Tyrants commit atrocities, including genocide, when they calculate they can get away with them.”  If President Obama heeds those words he will join Baltasar Garzón’s effort to bring to justice all those responsible for torturing prisoners in Bush’s war against terror.

Paul Cantor teaches economics at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut.

Spanish judge accuses six top Bush officials of torture

March 29, 2009

Legal moves may force Obama’s government into starting a new inquiry into abuses at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib

Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.

The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.

“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.”

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.”

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.

Legal observers say the Spanish lawsuit has a better chance of ending in charges. The high court, on which Garzón sits, has more leeway than the German prosecutor to seek “universal jurisdiction”.

The lawsuit also points to a direct link with Spain, as six Spaniards were held at Guantánamo and are argued to have suffered directly from the Bush administration’s departure from international law. Unlike the German lawsuit, the Spanish case is aimed at second-tier figures, advisers to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, with the aim of being less politically explosive.

The lawsuit claimed the six former aides “participated actively and decisively in the creation, approval and execution of a judicial framework that allowed for the deprivation of fundamental rights of a large number of prisoners, the implementation of new interrogation techniques including torture, the legal cover for the treatment of those prisoners, the protection of the people who participated in illegal tortures and, above all, the establishment of impunity for all the government workers, military personnel, doctors and others who participated in the detention centre at Guantánamo”.

“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.

Last week, Britain’s attorney general, Lady Scotland, launched a criminal investigation into MI5 complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held in Guantánamo.

The Obama administration has so far avoided taking similar steps. But the possibility of US prosecutions was brought closer by a report by the Senate armed services committee at the end of last year, which found: “The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees.”

None of the six former officials could be reached for comment yesterday. Meanwhile, Vijay Padmanabhan, a former state department lawyer, said the creation of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was “one of the worst over-reactions of the Bush administration”.

US ‘held suspects on British territory in 2006’

August 3, 2008

Terrorist suspects were held by the United States on the British territory of Diego Garcia as recently as 2006, according to senior intelligence sources. The claims, which undermine Foreign Office denials that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean has been used as a so-called ‘black site’ to facilitate extraordinary rendition, threaten to cause a diplomatic incident.

The government has repeatedly accepted US assurances that Diego Garcia has not been used to hold high-ranking members of al-Qaeda who have been flown to secret interrogation centres around the world in ‘ghost’ planes hired by the CIA. Interrogation techniques used on suspects are said to include ‘waterboarding’, a simulated drowning that Amnesty International claims is a form of torture. But now the government’s denials over Diego Garcia’s role in extraordinary rendition are crumbling. Senior American intelligence sources have claimed that the US has been holding terrorist suspects on the British territory as recently as two years ago.

The former intelligence officers unofficially told senior Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón that Mustafa Setmarian, a Spanish-based Syrian accused of running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, was taken to Diego Garcia in late 2005 and held there for months. The Spanish are trying to locate and arrest Setmarian for separate terrorist offences.

It is thought that more than 10 high-ranking detainees have been held on Diego Garcia or on a US navy vessel within its harbour since 2002. The suggestion, if true, is acutely embarrassing for the British government which has admitted only that planes carrying al-Qaeda suspects landed on Diego Garcia on two occasions in 2002.

However, a former senior American official familiar with conversations in the White House has also told Time magazine that in the same year Diego Garcia was used to hold and interrogate at least one terrorist suspect.

The Council of Europe has also raised concerns that the UK territory has been used to house detainees. Earlier this year Manfred Novak, the United Nations special investigator on torture, told The Observer he had talked to detainees who had been held on the archipelago in 2002, but declined to name them.

The human rights group Reprieve said it believes most of high-level detainees captured by the US have been rendered through Diego Garcia at one time or another. These include Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi accused of being one of al-Qaeda’s top strategists, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the mastermind behind 9/11.

‘We are confident high-value prisoners have been held on Diego Garcia for interrogation and possible torture,’ said a Reprieve spokeswoman. ‘We now have sources from the CIA, the UN, the Council of Europe and a Spanish judge who will confirm this.’

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