Over the weekend, The Miami Herald used documents unearthed by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks to publish an interesting account of how the U.S. government worked to convince Spanish officials not to pursue an investigation into accusations of torture made against senior U.S. officials — an effort that included pressure brought by former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.
From the Herald:
It was three months into Barack Obama’s presidency, and the administration — under pressure to do something about alleged abuses in Bush-era interrogation policies — turned to a Florida senator to deliver a sensitive message to Spain:
Don’t indict former President George W. Bush’s legal brain trust for alleged torture in the treatment of war on terror detainees, warned Mel Martinez on one of his frequent trips to Madrid. Doing so would chill U.S.-Spanish relations.
Rather than a resolution, though, a senior Spanish diplomat gave the former GOP chairman and housing secretary a lesson in Spain’s separation of powers. “The independence of the judiciary and the process must be respected,” then-acting Foreign Minister Angel Lossada replied on April 15, 2009. Then for emphasis, “Lossada reiterated to Martinez that the executive branch of government could not close any judicial investigation and urged that this case not affect the overall relationship.”
The cable that reveals this tidbit was dated April 17, 2009, marked “confidential” and sent from the American embassy in Madrid:
Senator Mel Martinez, accompanied by the Charge d’Affaires, met Acting FM Angel Lossada during a visit to the Spanish MFA on April 15. Martinez and the Charge underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the U.S. and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship. The Senator also asked if the GOS had thoroughly considered the source of the material on which the allegations were based to ensure the charges were not based on misinformation or factually wrong statements. Lossada responded that the GOS recognized all of the complications presented by universal jurisdiction, but that the independence of the judiciary and the process must be respected. The GOS would use all appropriate legal tools in the matter. While it did not have much margin to operate, the GOS would advise Conde Pumpido that the official administration position was that the GOS was “not in accord with the National Court.” Lossada reiterated to Martinez that the executive branch of government could not close any judicial investigation and urged that this case not affect the overall relationship, adding that our interests were much broader, and that the universal jurisdiction case should not be viewed as a reflection of the GOS position. [Emphasis added.]
Martinez chose not to comment on the Herald‘s story.