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Rights Group Vows to Continue Similar Efforts in Other Jurisdictions, Says Prosecutions Are Necessary to Deter Torture in Future
March 29, 2009, New York – According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), yesterday’s announcement that a Spanish judge has initiated a criminal investigation into the actions of John Yoo and other Bush administration lawyers is an important step forward in holding these officials and others accountable for their crimes. The case may well lead to investigations of top officials, including Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales. Spain, like many other countries in Europe, has a special interest in these cases as five of its citizens and residents were tortured or abused at Guantanamo. CCR expressed hope that other countries in Europe whose citizens and residents were subject to torture and cruel treatment at Guantanamo and elsewhere will likewise initiate such investigations.
CCR President Michael Ratner, author of the book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, said, “The importance of this investigation can not be understated. Contrary to statements by some, the Spanish investigations are not ‘symbolic.’ Just ask Augusto Pinochet, who was stranded under house arrest in England and who ultimately faced criminal charges in Chile because of the pressure of the Spanish courts. If and when arrest warrants are issued, 24 countries in Europe are obligated to enforce them. The world is getting smaller for the torture conspirators.”
CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, “The Spanish investigation should send a message to the Obama administration that it can no longer evade the question of accountability for officials who played a role in shaping and implementing a policy of torture. President Obama must recognize that the prosecution of serious crimes is neither ‘looking backward’ nor ‘a criminalizing of policy differences.’ Accounting for past crimes is looking forward to a future without torture.”
Since the first days of the public revelations regarding the Bush administration’s torture program, the Center for Constitutional Rights has made efforts to hold high level officials and their lawyers accountable for their crimes. CCR, along with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), has tried three times, twice in Germany and once in France, to bring criminal cases in Europe against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet as well as the lawyers who were part of the conspiracy that authorized the torture program in Guantanamo, Iraq, secret CIA sites, and elsewhere. The German case is still pending.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.