Spanish Judge Eyes Bush Administration Officials for Human Rights Violations
According to news reports over the weekend, the relentless Spanish judge and human rights prosecutor, Baltasar Garzon, who first came to international attention for prosecuting Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, will likely soon charge former high-level Bush administration lawyers for violating international law by providing the legal framework to allow the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
This is the second report of a U.S. ally’s judicial system bravely going where the U.S. Justice Department has refused to go.
As I reported last week, a U.K. attorney general, confronted with reports that British intelligence agents colluded with U.S. authorities in the torture of Ethiopian-born former Gitmo detainee Binyam Mohamed, announced she would refer the matter to British police to investigate. Allegations regarding British intelligence collusion in the torture of another British resident held at Gitmo are expected to reach the British High Court this week.
In the United States, meanwhile, prosecutors and former Bush officials have consistently maintained that the same memos that Spain is now investigating as possible violations of international law actually shield former U.S. officials from prosecution here.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have yet to come out clearly one way or another on the matter. And while some Democratic lawmakers have supported a “truth commission,” such as one sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Republicans such as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), while slamming that idea in Congress, inadvertently made the strongest case yet for prosecuting former Bush administration lawyers and policymakers. Although the Judiciary Committee has not convened its own investigation of the Justice Department’s possible lawbreaking during the last administration, a review prepared by Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility that will reportedly criticize former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee is expected to be released soon.
Even as Obama and Holder say they want to look forward rather than backward when it comes to the treatment of detainees and anti-terror policy, the growing number of foreign prosecutions and domestic reports producing evidence of criminal conduct may eventually force their hand.