Sunday 29 March 2009

Spanish court considers trying former US officials

They can play around with Israelis - like Belgium did with Ariel Sharon - but when charges were filed against American officials, including George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld threatened to remove the NATO headquarters fom Brussels and to boycott the Antwerp port, the "universal competence law" was promptly revised.

"A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.

Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.

The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy 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.

Yoo declined to comment. A request for comment left with Feith through his Hudson Institute e-mail address was not immediately returned.

Spanish law allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes under a doctrine of universal justice, though the government has recently said it hopes to limit the scope of the legal process.

Garzon became famous for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and he and other Spanish judges have agreed to investigate alleged abuses everywhere from Tibet to Argentina's "dirty war," El Salvador and Rwanda.

Still, the country's record in prosecuting such cases has been spotty at best, with only one suspect extradited to Spain so far.

When a similar case was brought against Israeli officials earlier this year, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos assured his Israeli counterpart that the process would be quashed.

Even if indictments are eventually handed down against the US officials, it is far from clear whether arrests would ever take place. The officials would have to travel outside the United States and to a country willing to take them into custody before possible extradition to Spain. (...)

The judge's decision to send the case against the American officials to prosecutors means it will proceed, at least for now. Prosecutors must now decide whether to recommend a full-blown investigation, though Garzon is not bound by their decision.

The proceedings against the Bush Administration officials could be embarrassing for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been keen to improve ties with the United States after frosty relations during the Bush Administration.

Zapatero is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama for the first time on April 5 during a summit in Prague."
Source: TJP
Spanish judge to continue probe in Saleh Shehadeh killing (TJP, Feb. 27, 2009)

"(...) Universal jurisdiction allows Spain and other European countries to prosecute foreigners for war crimes if a court is satisfied that the suspects will not be tried for their acts in their home country.

Andreu is probing the actions taken by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud MK Moshe Ya'alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then-OC Air Force; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister's bureau chief, Brig.-Gen. Mike Herzog, who was a senior Defense Ministry official in 2002; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Almog.

Should Andreu choose to issue an international arrest warrant for any of the seven, they could be arrested upon arrival in any EU member state.

The Spanish government has been considering a proposal to amend the controversial war crimes law that now allows the court to investigate the Israelis.

"The [Spanish] government is considering whether to introduce a proposal to change legislation which has been abused by groups all over the world," Juan Gonzalez-Barba, deputy head of mission at the Spanish Embassy in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post.

Such legislation would have to be introduced by the Spanish Justice Ministry, and could take months, he said.

The Spanish diplomat, who was speaking at a Hebrew University conference on the aftermath of the Gaza war, added that it was uncertain that such legislation would be retroactive and therefore affect the case before the courts.

He conceded that the matter could impact relations between the two countries."

Spanish/European Moral Hypocrisy Strikes Again: Navon on Judge Andreu

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