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CCR Says Prosecutions When Crimes Committed Necessary to Deter Torture in Future
April 17, 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 to pursue a criminal investigation into the actions of six Bush administration lawyers for providing legal cover for torture at the base. His move comes the day after the Spanish attorney General overrode his prosecutors to recommend that the case not go forward. CCR attorneys hailed the decision as an important step in holding these officials and others accountable for their crimes. The case 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. 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, Vice President Peter Weiss 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 “Spain has the courage to do what the Obama administration does not but is legally required to do: prosecute the torture team.” Click for more information on Ratner's book.
The former Bush officials named in the Spanish complaint are former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.
CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, “It is gravely disappointing that we must rely on European countries like Spain to hold U.S. officials accountable for war crimes. This is a golden moment for the current administration to appoint a special U.S. prosecutor and break with the illegalities of the past.”
CCR Vice President Peter Weiss, an expert in international human rights law, said, “It was the lawyers who flashed the green light for torture with their mendacious made-to-order opinions. They therefore bear the primal guilt for the torture which occurred.”
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 pending in U.S. courts.
For more information on the German case, visit the German war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld page. 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.