January 7, 2011, Madrid, Spain – Today, the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) asked a Spanish Judge to subpoena the former commanding officer at Guantánamo Bay to explain his role in the torture of four former detainees. CCR and ECCHR filed a 12-page dossier detailing the key role of Major General Geoffrey Miller, who ran the island prison camp from November 2002 until April 2004, in the torture and other serious abuse of detainees held there. In the dossier, the rights groups detail acts of torture and other war crimes committed against detainees, including the torture of CCR client Mohammed al Qahtani. Based on his record in Guantánamo, Miller was sent to Iraq in 2003 to share interrogation techniques from Guantánamo with U.S. counterparts in Iraq: Miller is said to have wanted to “Gitmo-ize” Iraq and Abu Ghraib, including by having guards “soften up” prisoners. Shortly after Miller’s visit, some of the most serious and notorious acts of torture at Abu Ghraib occurred.
Much of the documentation discussed in the dossier is drawn from U.S. government reports.
Today’s filing comes in the investigation that was opened in April 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón. Garzón initiated the inquiry into the torture of four individuals, including a Spanish citizen and a Spanish resident, at Guantánamo after an investigation against the men for their alleged role in terrorism was dismissed because of a finding by the Spanish courts that the men had been tortured at Guantánamo. Following the controversial suspension of Judge Garzón, the case was assigned to Judge Pablo Rafael Ruz.
“There is ample evidence – primarily from U.S. government sources – that Geoffrey Miller played a central role in the torture of detainees at Guantánamo, and later in Iraq,” said Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It is time that he be called before a court of law to explain his role in the torture of detainees.”
In another move to ensure the accountability of senior former U.S. officials for their role in torture, CCR filed a legal opinion in the case of the “Bush Six,” the lawyers, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who created the legal rationale – or cover – for torture. A Spanish human rights group filed a complaint before another Spanish Judge, Eloy Velasco, to have the actions of these former Bush administration officials investigated. Today’s second filing lays out the legal basis, as well as some key evidence, for pursuing that case.
“The Obama administration has shown that they are unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere,” said Gavin Sullivan, counterterrorism and human rights program director of ECCHR. “These proceedings and today’s submissions are a crucial means of resisting this culture of impunity and ensuring that appropriate U.S. officials are made accountable for the international crimes they have committed."
Today’s filings follow earlier submissions by CCR and ECCHR in Spain, most recently in December, when the groups detailed the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure impunity, not accountability, for former U.S. officials, including by exerting pressure on Spanish government officials to have these cases dismissed. Recently released State Department cables detail meetings between U.S. officials and Spanish officials from various ministries as well as the Spanish Attorney General, in which the U.S. pressed to have these cases dismissed. The cables also detail improper interventions by U.S. officials in other cases involving the U.S. that are pending before the Spanish judiciary.
Gonzalo Boye, a Madrid-based lawyer who is representing CCR and ECCHR in these proceedings added, “These submissions demonstrate that the cases against the former U.S. officials are not “fraudulent,” as the Spanish Attorney General said when they were filed. They also seek to do what the Attorney General and other Spanish officials assured the U.S. would not happen: move these cases – and the efforts to hold those who are responsible for torture and war crimes – forward.”
For more information on CCR’s role see http://www.ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/spanish-investigation-us-torture.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with an individual transferred from CIA “ghost detention” to Guantanamo. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 30 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.