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April 29, 2009, New York –The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents many of the men detained by the U.S. government at Guantánamo, praised Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon’s decision today to pursue a new criminal investigation into the torture conspiracy and the torture program at the base where five Spanish nationals were tortured and abused.
The writ did not name specific officials as defendants but speaks of investigating the roles of those responsible for authorizing, planning and executing the torture program, particularly in light of the newly release torture memos and the Senate Armed Services Committee report. The case could lead to arrest warrants in Europe and, according to CCR attorneys, places new pressure on the Obama administration to appoint its own special prosecutor to investigate the crimes committed by former officials.
Last month, Spain moved to begin criminal investigation into the role of six Bush administration lawyers responsible for creating the legal justification and framework for the torture program. The brief history of that case is as follows: Judge Garzon accepted the initial complaint; the Spanish prosecutors were set to recommend pursuing it; in an effort to stop the case, the Spanish attorney general intervened to recommend against it; a lottery reassigned the lawyers case to Judge Eloy Velasco, who now has the authority to decide whether to open the investigation..
CCR attorneys hailed the decision as an important step in holding these officials and others accountable for their crimes. The new case could also include the lawyers and may well lead to investigations of top officials, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
Spain, like many other countries in Europe, has a special interest in these cases since five of its citizens and residents were tortured or abused at Guantanamo. The Spanish link to the case is strong: four of the Spanish nationals who were tortured have intervened in the case. They currently live in Spain, which gives extra legitimacy to the investigation and jurisdiction of the judge. These cases can lead to arrest warrants being issued that could apply throughout Europe. CCR expressed hope that other countries in Europe whose citizens and residents were subjected to torture and cruel treatment at Guantanamo and elsewhere will likewise initiate such investigations.
CCR President Michael Ratner and Executive Director Vincent Warren are available for comment.
Michael Ratner, author of the book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “The torture conspirators are in deep trouble. Even if the U.S. fails in its obligation to criminally investigate, Spain will. The conspirators can run, but they can't hide. It is conceivable that arrest warrants have already been issued or will be soon. Indictments will almost surely follow. The torture team’s travel options are narrowing.” Click for more information about Ratner's book.
CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, “The Obama administration should not need pressure from abroad to uphold our own laws and initiate a criminal investigation in the U.S., but I hope the Spanish cases will impress on the president and Attorney General Eric Holder how seriously the rest of the world takes these crimes and show them the issue will not go away.”
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 and former White House Counsel/Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as well as many of the other lawyers and officials who were part of the conspiracy that authorized the torture program in Guantanamo, Iraq, secret CIA sites and elsewhere. Ten other co-plaintiffs signed on to the case in Germany, including the National Lawyers’ Guild (NLG), European Democratic Jurists and Veterans for Peace. The German case is still pending. CCR also has torture cases representing former Guantánamo detainees pending in U.S. courts.
For more information on the German case, visit CCR's page on German war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld. Also see CCR's factsheet on accountability and prosecutions for torture.
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.