U.S. Government interference with Justice and Accountability in Spain
Leaked State Department cables have made clear that the Obama administration has interfered with the judicial process in Spain and engaged in a political campaign to block Spanish courts from securing accountability for torture and other egregious violations of international law planned, authorized, and committed by Bush administration officials at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The detailed cables reveal efforts undertaken by U.S. diplomats and members of Congress to obstruct and otherwise interfere with two separate legal proceedings in Spain which involve the participation of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
The first of these proceedings is a criminal investigation currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United States during the Bush Administration. Initiated in April 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of four former Guantánamo detainees—Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghayes—each with strong ties to Spain. This investigation seeks to examine what Judge Garzón described as “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment,” and can therefore encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black sites around the world. Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years. The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) to intervene as a party to this case based on its vast experience working on cases having to do with every facet of the U.S. torture program, from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary rendition and CIA ghost detention.
The second case, known as the case of the “Bush Six,” is one in which Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco must decide whether the National Court can pursue a criminal investigation against six senior U.S. officials, including attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, for their role in the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a joint expert opinion in this case urging Judge Velasco to retain jurisdiction over the investigation due to the failure of the United States to conduct independent, thorough or impartial investigations into the torture program and the ongoing failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible for the torture program. The expert opinion also examines the scope of universal jurisdiction, and determines that because of the grave nature of the crimes alleged and Spain’s obligations as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and Convention Against Torture, in particular, it should retain jurisdiction over this case.
At the same time that U.S. officials are urging Spanish officials to stop the case from proceeding, the leaked cables show that U.S. diplomats and other officials repeatedly commented on the independence of the judiciary – and the firm adherence to that principle by judges in Spain – demonstrating that they knew their attempts to interfere with criminal proceedings is utterly improper.
Below you can see selected critical State Department cables, along with highlights and commentary exposing U.S. interference with judicial independence and political efforts to delay and ultimately block accountability in Spain. They are very significant as they reveal for the first time how tenaciously the Obama administration has carried on the Bush administration’s efforts to block torture investigations overseas.
For more information on the investigations of U.S. torture pending in Spain, see: www.ccrjustice.org/spain-us-torture-case.
For more information on CCR’s work to hold U.S. officials accountable using universal jurisdiction, see: http://www.ccrjustice.org/case-against-rumsfeld.
09MADRID347 Spain: Prosecutor Weighs GTMO Criminal Case vs. Former USG [U.S. Government] Officials
This cable details the filing of the “Bush Six” case in Spain, investigating six former Bush administration officials for creating a legal framework that permits torture. The six officials are: former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, David Addington (former Chief of Staff and Legal Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney), William Haynes (Pentagon’s former General Counsel), Douglas Feith (former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy), Jay Bybee (former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel), and John Yoo (former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel). This cable provides an overview of the legal theory and some of the supporting evidence cited in the complaint, showing U.S. concern about the case.
Date of cable: April 1, 2009
09MADRID392 Spain: Attorney General Recommends Court Not Pursue GTMO Criminal Case vs Former USG [U.S. Government] Officials
This cable details numerous meetings held between U.S. officials and Spanish officials in which the U.S. government sought to influence the outcome of the criminal proceeding against six former Bush administration lawyers (the “Bush Six”) and shield those who authorized torture from being held accountable through Spanish litigation.
Date of Cable: April 17, 2009
09MADRID440 Garzón Opens Second Investigation Into Alleged U.S. Torture of Terrorism Detainees
This cable details a meeting between Spain’s Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza and a U.S. Embassy official to discuss the investigation started by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón into the U.S. torture program, and exposes Zaragoza discussing various ways he could “embarrass” Judge Garzón into dropping the case. It cites Zaragoza as saying there is a need for “a strategy to force … [Judge Garzón’s] hand,” and demonstrates U.S. concern that “forcing him” to drop the case “could take months.”
Date of Cable: May 5, 2009