Spain moves to begin trial against Bush-era officials

March 30th, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Dick Cheney London, March 30 (IANS) Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials of the former US president George Bush’s administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Guardian reported.
Human rights activists had brought the case against the Bush-era officials who are believed to have given the legal go-ahead for what termed as “crimes against the international community”.

Leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon has agreed to send the case to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, the report said. Under Spanish law, courts can prosecute offences such as torture or war crimes even if they occurred in other countries.

The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boye, 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 officials named in the case 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 Guantanamo)”.

Boye predicted that Garzon would issue subpoenas in the next two weeks, summoning the six former officials to present evidence.

If Garzon 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 US President Barack Obama with a serious dilemma. He would have either to open proceedings against the accused or tackle an extradition request from Spain.

In Washington, 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, they said.

Meanwhile, Vijay Padmanabhan, a former state department lawyer, said the creation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was “one of the worst over-reactions of the Bush administration”.

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