On Friday, the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) gave hope to those seeking to hold accountable the Bush administration officials and lawyers who authorized torture by agreeing to continue investigating allegations made by a Moroccan-born Spanish resident, Lahcen Ikassrien, that he was tortured at Guantánamo, where he was held from 2002 to 2005.
Spanish courts are empowered to hear certain types of international cases, but following a limitation placed on the country’s universal jurisdiction laws in November 2009 (very possibly with pressure from the US), the cases in question must have a “relevant connection” to Spain. The National Court concluded that it was competent to take the case because Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for 13 years prior to his capture, and it will be overseen by Judge Pablo Ruz, who, in June 2010, replaced the colorful and controversial Judge Baltasar Garzón, who initiated the proceedings, after Garzón fell foul of political opponents in Spain.
This is exceptionally good news, as the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been involved in this case (and in another ongoing case, aimed at the six senior Bush administration lawyers who authorized the US torture program), explained in a press release (emphasis added):
This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the “authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill treatment” by US officials at Guantánamo. Geoffrey Miller, the former commanding officer at Guantánamo, has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command. Since the US government has not only failed to investigate the illegal actions of its own officials and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, also sought to interfere in the Spanish judicial process and stop the case from proceeding, this will be the first real investigation of the US torture program. This is a victory for accountability and a blow against impunity. The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the Spanish courts for not bowing to political pressure and for undertaking what may be the most important investigation in decades.
CCR’s reference to WikiLeaks is important, as it was revealed in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks on December 1 last year that, in April 2009, Obama administration officials, with the help of a seemingly unlikely ally — Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who had recently been chairman of the Republican Party — met with their Spanish counterparts in an attempt to persuade them to call off the investigation into “the Bush Six,” because “the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the US and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship” between Spain and the United States.
The day after the meeting, as I explained in an article in December:
Attorney General Conde-Pumpido “publicly stated that prosecutors will ‘undoubtedly’ not support [the] criminal complaint,” adding that he would “not support the criminal complaint because it is ‘fraudulent,’ and has been filed as a political statement to attack past [US government] policies.” He added that, “if there is evidence of criminal activity by [US government] officials, then a case should be filed in the United States.” In the cable, officials at the US embassy in Madrid congratulated themselves for their successful involvement in the case, noting that “Conde Pumpido’s public announcement follows outreach to [Spanish government] officials to raise [the US government's] deep concerns on the implications of this case.”
This was not the end of the story, as Judge Garzón pressed ahead with the investigation in September 2009, and in April 2010 CCR became involved, seeking “to assist the court by providing analysis of various US government reports, memoranda and investigations, providing factual information regarding the treatment of specific persons detained at Guantánamo and other locations, as appropriate, and other aspects of the detention and interrogation program. CCR further intends to assist in gathering and analyzing information about specific persons believed to have ordered, directed, conspired, aided and abetted, or otherwise participated directly, indirectly or through command responsibility in the torture and other serious mistreatment of persons detained at US-run detention facilities.”
As noted above, Judge Ruz then took over the case in June, and on January 7 this year, CCR and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), submitted a dossier to the court (PDF), detailing the involvement in torture of Maj. Gen. Geofffrey Miller, the commander of Guantánamo during part of the time that Lahcen Ikassrien was held, “which collects and analyzes the evidence demonstrating his role in the torture of detainees at Guantánamo and in Iraq,” where he was subsequently sent to “Gitmo-ize” operations at Abu Ghraib, leading to the worldwide scandal that erupted in April 2004, when photos of the abuse of prisoners first brought the horrors of the Bush administration’s widespread use of torture in the “War on Terror” into the open.
Based on the information in the dossier, CCR and ECCHR believe that there is sufficient information for the court to request that a subpoena be issued for Miller to testify before Judge Ruz, and it is this that led CCR to express the hope, in its press release, that as a result “the case will surely move up the chain of command.”
I recommend those interested in this case to read the dossier about Miller, but to provide some background to the kind of information that can be expected to emerge in connection with Lahcen Ikassrien’s detention, I’m posting, in a separate article to follow, highlights of his story, as told to El Pais in December 2006, and translated into English for Cageprisoners in 2007, plus additional information that I included in an article in November 2007.
Note: For videos of CCR attorney Katie Gallagher talking about the Spanish cases, see On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington and Katie Gallagher of CCR Discuss the Failure to Close Guantánamo, and Spanish Investigations into US Torture and Video: Forum — “WikiLeaks, State Secrets, Guantánamo and Torture” with Andy Worthington, Katie Gallagher, Pardiss Kebriaei, Leili Kashani and Jeremy Varon, New York, January 6, 2011.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
This article, and the accompanying article telling the story of Lahcen Ikassrien, were published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, as “Spanish Torture Investigation into Gitmo to Continue.”
[...] Spanish Court Gives Go-Ahead for Guantánamo Torture Investigation to Continue | Andy Worthington. [...]
On Facebook, Jabril Mujahid-Alexander wrote:
Andy thank you for your informative posts
Gerda Van de Windt wrote:
Thanks for posting. Shared.
Debra Sweet wrote:
I’m posting it and quoting it today, going out to all World Can’t Wait supporters.
Thanks, everyone, for recognizing the importance of this story — which, I note, appears to have received ZERO mainstream media coverage in the US.
Debra, in a few hours I’ll be posting the story of Lahcen Ikassrien, whose torture in Kandahar and Guantanamo forms the basis of this case, if you’d like to send that out as well.
Deborah Emin wrote:
I have shared this post on my fb page as well. Thanks Andy for this incredible work you do.
David Evans wrote:
Why is this man detained in Gitmo without trial 9 years after being sold with CIA money?
Mary Lamantia Vinyard wrote:
I have shared also. Let’s hope justice prevails over the criminals who started this and puts a fire under those who vowed to end it.
Thanks, Deborah, David and Mary.
And David, Shaker Aamer’s case is one I return to again and again, as do numerous campaigners in the UK. A good round-up, including an analysis of why he’s “the man who knows too much,” is here:
David G. McGrady wrote:
Kudos to Spain. When is the rest of Europe going to grow a backbone and demand the same? Have they forgot about the Nuremberg Trials of WWII? Those laws still apply today, even to the U.S., who helped write them.
Brian Barth wrote:
Karim Samer Moukaddem wrote:
Great stuff Andy. I live in Spain and didn’t know that lol. Viva España if they carry this out
Frank LeFever wrote:
Anthony F. Angelic wrote:
Andy, as usual, thank you–for your great work. Shared !
Kyle Christensen wrote:
I agree and hope it is not limited to Bush Administration
Ken Lessley wrote:
Andy, terrific news; thanks for posting. Sharing.
Meenakshi Sharma wrote:
Thanks Andy for great news..
Michael Ratner wrote:
a wonderful post by Andy Worthington
On Digg, wanacare wrote:
This article is about the hope that justice will visit the US.
Sadly, the Obama administration is largely to blame for this state of affairs. In early 2009, White House Counsel Greg Craig was close to finalising a plan to rehouse a handful of cleared prisoners who could not be repatriated safely.
C. West & Tavis Smiley are asked why they do not give Pres. Obama grace space and they reply they have already. Dehumanizing people is not acceptable and he could release the innocent in less than a days notice if he did not want to carry the relay baton handed to him by Bush to continue using human beings in violent propaganda goals for war to gain corporate oil.
On Facebook, Michael Irving wrote:
Susan Hall wrote:
I will try and put this news in the Denver Post this week, since you never know if it will get in there. If everyone put a summary of your articles, especially concerning Shaker Aamer and cleared victims of Guantanamo, maybe people would begin to call for their release as Australia did David Hicks.
Nice thought, Susan. Thanks.
Is there any discussion or not of what will happen if Miller refuses to appear (as I suppose he will)? How far can these prosecutions go without witnesses? Can he be indicted or convicted in absentia? I suppose this is what happened to Pinochet.
All great questions that I don’t know the answer to myself, Jeff, although the least I can do is ask CCR.
On Facebook, Ciudadano Kane Kane wrote:
Thanks very much!, I didn’t know it! It is really good news!…
Danielle Ratcliff wrote:
A victory which WikiLeaks helped make possible, despite the worst machinations of the Obama/Holder crime syndicate.
Fran Foley Lawrence wrote:
Ken Rynne wrote:
America is ‘exceptional’ tho not in the way Cheney et al think.
Kevin M Benderman wrote:
I would hope it would be America that would do this. I guess I am wrong about the people here. It makes me ashamed to have given so much of my life to defend the rights the citizens of this country have. Especially since they refuse to use them. You can say whatever you want about the military. I, personally, took my oath to the constitution very seriously. I served for the protections the constitution lays out to the citizens of this country. It is shameful that most will not take the responsibility of these rights and force the courts to hear this case.
All I have heard is that trying them in court won’t work. All I have heard is that protests will work. I have seen or heard about ten years worth of protests from citizens of America, and lo and behold, Spain is doing what American citizens should be.
On The Public Record, Faye wrote:
Let’s not forget that Wikileaks also exposed that Hilary Clinton wanted the bank account details of all the members of the UN (no doubt in order to compromise them) and we haven’t heard a bleep from the UN since… if she’s doing it with the UN she’s doing it with the Spanish judges. I really and truly despair. Liars the lot of them. I hope to God that there’s some shred of decency left in Spain and that these torturers will be held accountable.
[...] var daym=mydate.getDate() if (daym The mainstream media in the US may not care about the significance of the Spanish National Court’s recent decision to allow an investigation into torture at Guantánamo to proceed (the story was ignored by both the [...]
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