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Posted by on Mar 30, 2009 in War | 3 comments

The Worm Has Turned (Spain’s Criminal Inquiry of Former Bush Officials)

In October of last year, a Miami court handed down a conviction.

It was a very unusual conviction.

It was the first time a U.S. Court handed down such a conviction.

“This is the first case in the United States to charge an individual with criminal torture. I hope this case will serve as a model to future prosecutions of this type,” proudly said none other than Bush’s Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.

On January 10 of this year, a federal court in Miami brought that case to conclusion by sentencing Chuckie Taylor, the son of the former Liberian president, to 97 years in federal prison.

George W. Bush was still in power.

It was the first time the United States used a law that allows it to prosecute torture, not in the United States, not at Guantanamo, but in other countries.

Well, the former Attorney General’s hopes that Taylor’s case “will serve as a model for future prosecutions of this type,” may be realized, but—in a strange twist of fate—the “model” could be applied in actions against some of his colleagues, including his own predecessor.

As I posted here yesterday and it was widely reported today, including in the New York Times:

A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said

I said the “model” referred to by Alberto Gonzales “could be applied…” because the case against the former Bush officials was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by none other than Judge Baltasar Garzón, and he might be able to use a model.

But on second thought, it is highly unlikely that the legendary Garzón will need any models to go by.

Baltasar Garzón is Europe’s best known counterterrorism magistrate, renowned for his determination and his abilities to bring suspects to justice, no matter how powerful or where they may be—and especially for terrorism and human rights abuses.

His targets have included the al-Qaeda 9/11 and Madrid bombings perpetrators; the infamous Chilean General Pinochet; ETA and related Basque terrorist organizations; Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations operating in the Maghreb region, including Spanish enclaves in Morocco; Argentine ex-naval officer Adolfo Scilingo who was convicted of crimes against humanity; etc.

Under Spanish law, judges have the right to try foreigners suspected of human rights abuses that have taken place outside Spain.

That is how Spain was able to issue warrants for the arrest of Pinochet: Of the 3,000 men, women and children who were systematically tortured, murdered, or simply disappeared under the military junta led by General Pinochet, 79 were Spanish citizens.

And, coming full circle, that is also why Spain claims jurisdiction in the case against the former Bush officials: Five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay claim they were tortured there.

As a footnote to the issue of confessions obtained through torture, all five Spanish prisoners at Guantánamo had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.

I have to paraphrase co-contributor Kathy Kattenburg from her excellent blog on the same subject, “What Goes Around Comes Around.”

Finally, it is simply embarrassing that while our elected officials continue to contemplate what to do about the alleged abuses during the Bush era, another country, Spain, is grabbing this American born and bred bull by the horns.