Posts Tagged ‘universal jurisdiction’

Next steps in Syria: End UNSMIS observer mission, and send Kofi Annan home. Also, begin prosecutions of war criminals, and prepare for possible military action—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #60 (July 10)

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Latest News and Opinion

Editorial, “Annan’s failure” (Kofi Annan’s return to Damascus Sunday evening adds insult to injury after his admission over the weekend that his peace plan for Syria has failed), The Daily Star, July 9, 2012.

Raniah Salloum, “Annans Syrien-Mission: Das Palaver-Prinzip’; Kofi Annan will in Syrien weitermachen wie bisher – auch wenn Machthaber Baschar al-Assad keinen einzigen Punkt des Friedensplans umsetzt. Es ist nicht das erste Mal, dass Annan sich von einem arabischen Tyrannen vorführen lässt,” Der Spiegel, 10 Juli 2012.

“Russland schickt Kriegsschiffe nach Syrien; Der U-Boot-Zerstörer “Admiral Tschabanenko” und mehrere weitere Schiffe sollen sich auf dem Weg zum Stützpunkt Tartus befinden,” Die Presse (Wien), 10 Juli 2012.

Seth J. Frantzman, “Is Annan an accomplice to murder in Syria? The appointment of Annan sent a clear message to Assad that a representative was being sent who would provide cover for increased repression, ” Jerusalem Post, 10 July 2012.

End UNMIS Observer Mission, and Send Kofi Annan Home

Fortunately, there is cause for hope in Syria. It is theoretically possible that the UNSMIS observer mission will not be renewed, and that Kofi Annan will be sent home.

The UNSMIS authorization expires July 20. Any Security Council Permanent Member can block an extension by simply voting “no”. That means that either France or the U.K., or the U.S., acting alone, can end the observer mission, which has failed.

Talk of having truce observers act as mediators instead of observing the non-existent truce, is rubbish. It is time to get these courageous men and women out of harm’s way.

Kofi Annan’s ill-conceived and ill-starred mission as the joint Arab League and United Nations Special Envoy for Syria should end at the same time.

He is a loose cannon, now off to Iran to involve the Iranians in the Syrian question and its solution. Such efforts are directly contrary to U.S. policy and U.S. interests, and also those of Europe, NATO, and the Arab states.

Annan’s bias against the United States has been evident since his first news conference in Cairo, around March 10, when he assured the public his job was to prevent the  use of military force by some outside countries “as has unfortunately happened in the past.” The emotional intensity in his eyes and his voice when he spoke these words was unmistakable.

Many thousands in Syria have died because of the way Annan has defended the Russians’ and the Syrians’ interest in delay–with no external action to halt the killing. He has constantly fed false hopes and illusions to the Security Council and to the world.

His “mediation” with al-Assad, as the latter continued to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, has achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It is time for him to leave the stage. Whatever the next new scheme may be that he comes up with, whatever new castle in the sky he may be building, he must be shown the door.

Refocus on Halting and Punishing the Commission of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Instead of listening to Kofi Annan–for one second longer, what the international community should be focusing on are actions based on bedrock principles of international law:

1) the Syrian regime must immediately cease its commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of fundamental human rights; and

2) those responsible for the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity should be held accountable, either pursuant to a Security Council referral and grant of jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC), or as the result of prosecutions carried out in individual countries which have legislation authorizing the exercise of “universal jurisdiction” over individuals charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and other international crimes.

Should Russia or China veto a Security Council resolution granting such jurisdiction to the ICC, under a Chapter VII resolution, then countries willing to support such prosecutions by individual states should make arrangements for the sharing of information and expenses necessary to proceed with these prosecutions in an expeditious manner. The first investigations should be launched at once.

In addition, if the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Syrian regime continues, a “coalition of the willing” should be formed to undertake such military action as may be required to halt these atrocities, at the earliest possible moment.

In sum, it is time to both end the UNSMIS mission in Syria, and to remove Kofi Annan from the stage. It is time to begin prosecutions against those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is time to form a “coalition of the willing” to bring the ongoing commission of such crimes to a halt, by the use of military force if so required–with or without Security Council authorization.

The Trenchant Observer.

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

Beyond Despair: Obama’s Debacle in Syria—Update #12 (March 16)

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


It is easier now to understand how the European Powers and the United States looked the other way as Hitler executed all his opponents beginning in 1933-34, during the period known as the Gleichschaltung.

We have gained insight into what it was like in 1936 when the European Powers did not respond to Hitler’s militarization of the Rhineland, in flagrant violation of the Versailles Treaty concluded in 1919 after World War I.

We can understand better now how the French and the English did not oppose the German Anschluss (or annexation) of Austria in March 1938, or the occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia pursuant to the Munich Pact signed by Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain and Éduouard Daladier of France on September 29-30, 1938.  Interestingly, earlier England and France had urged Czechoslovakia to resort to “mediation” with Hitler once they had decided not to go to war, and to leave Czechoslovakia to fend for itself.

We can better grasp now how the world stood by in the days that followed, after Krystalnacht on November 9-10, 1938, the night of the anti-Jewish pogroms, when Jewish businesses and synagogues were attacked throughout Germany by the SS, and the civil authorities looked on without raising a finger. Wikipedia summarized the events as follows:

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.[2] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.[3] Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.[4][5]

Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world.[3] The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”[6]

To be sure, our diplomats and foreign policy experts today don’t seem to study history (as history, as opposed to picking facts from history for case studies to illustrate theories) or diplomatic history, as they used to do–back in the days when when we had journalists like James Reston who also were deeply familiar with history.

They may not recall the famous quote by George de Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (from “Life of Reason I”).

So, presumably in the absense of this sense of history, our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia and China support the butchery of al-Assad, blocking Security Council action since their February 4 vetoes of a Security Council resolution on Syria.  Our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia continue to furnish weapons and ammunition and other matérial to al-Assad to use in the commission of these crimes, and to watch Iran continue to advise al-Assad on how to use terror to crush his opposition as was done in Iran in 2009.  They have been prepared to support “mediation” of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity with the Syrian Dictator.

And now they are prepared to sit down with Putin and Hu Jintao and share toasts with them at the next G-20 meeting in June.

Today, bringing crimes against humanity and war crimes to a halt is just one among many competing national interests.

Perhaps our acceptance of torture under Bush, and our failure to fully repudiate it by prosecuting those responsible as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture, have dulled our moral senses.

We live in a world where moral outrage is now hardly even felt, or if felt does not last for more than a day.

So, here we are. We now are living in “the day after” the world turned its back on Syria, and the Syrian Dictator was permitted to proceed with the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in repressing his civilian as well as armed opposition.

Even the sanctions imposed on Syria are kind of a joke. For example, the European Union has imposed a ban on the importation or sale of gold, jewelry, and other precious metals, or Syrian cental bank activities supporting such activities. They have imposed a ban on cargo aviation to European capitals.

They didn’t even have the resolve to ban all civil aviation. That would have hurt al-Assad directly, as it would have curtained his wife’s celebratory shopping in Paris as her husband commands the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity back home.

Barack Obama, and David Cameron, and even Nicholas Sarkozy have accepted a reality in which crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed on their doorstep, in the heart of the ancient lands that surround the Mediterranean, and they are not prepared to act militarily to halt this butchery.

They didn’t do anything effective, because it was too complicated.

Cynically, they used Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations special representative to Syria, Kofi Annan, as their shield against criticism, and as an excuse for not acting.

They didn’t even insist on bringing a resolution referring the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria to the International Criminal Court to a public debate and vote in the Security Council.

Obama shamelessly used his top military and defense leaders to argue to the Congress that military intervention was not being considered, because it was too complicated, when he had not even ordered the preparation of serious military options ready to be executed on short notice. The “all options are on the table” president took military options off the table in his “sailboat diplomacy” with al-Assad. God bless him, for he must have goodness in his heart, or so we want to believe. But he doesn’t have the guts to stand and fight, for anything. Not if he faces serious opposition. Not if it will involve direct confrontation.

This was the attitude of the Western powers last summer, when they didn’t want to look at what was going on in Syria.

It was then, and remains, the shame of the world.

But a curious thing happened last summer. The Syrian people didn’t give up. They may not give up this time either.

So, it is just one more chapter in Obama’s sad series of foreign policy debacles. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Latin America (with Chavez in Venezuela, Correa in Ecuador, and Morales in Bolivia).

Notwithstanding the above, hope springs eternal in the human heart. No situation is totally hopeless.

There are a few hopeful signs on the horizon with respect to Syria. First, there is a report today that defections from the military in Syria are up.

See (AFP/Bloomberg), “Syria’s bloody isolation,” The Sydney Moring Herald, March 16, 2012 (1:26PM).

Second, there is a report that the establishment of humanitarian corrridors and safe areas is still under consideration, at least by some observers.

See Benedetta Berti, “To help Syria, apply a mix of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power”; Sanctions and isolation of the Assad regime are simply allowing massacres to continue in Syria. Yet the world resists an all-out military intervention in Syria. A third option is to apply a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power to relieve the suffering there,” The Christian Science Monitor (opinion), March 15, 2012.

Meanwhile, we need to not turn our glance away, but rather to follow closely, day by day, the details of the hell the Syrian Dictator is inflicting on his people–the dozens and sometimes hundreds who are dying every day, in utter defiance of every rule of civilization and international law.

And if the ICC has not yet been invested by the Security Council with jurisdiction over the crimes being committed in Syria, perhaps at least there is one country–somewhere–that might initiate judicial proceedings against Bashar al-Assad, his brother and other accomplices to these atrocities, in exercise of the universal jurisdiction against such crimes that is permitted under international law to be exercised by individual states, provided their domestic legislation so permits.

It is a sad moment when we look in the mirror and see who we really are, as a nation, as an alliance.

Obama’s restless attention will turn to something else.  But the world, and history, will not forget.

The Trenchant Observer

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Los casos contra Garzón: Las cuestiones prévias en el caso de la memoria histórica

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

En la sesión de hoy, 24 de enero, el Tribunal Supremo escuchó los argumentos de la fiscalía, la defensa, e de los querrellantes en torno a las cuestiones prévias, que se deben dilucidarse antes de entrar en el fondo del juicio contra Baltasar Garzón por prevaricación relacionado con “el caso de la memoria histórica”.

Dos de las cuestiones prévias podrían llevar al sobreseimiento de este caso. La primera es la acusación de que Luciano Varela, el juez quien instruyó la causa, violó las más básicas normas de la imparcialidad judicial cuando en lugar de rechazar una demanda viciada e incompleta, ayudó a los querellantes corregir sus defectos. Los detalles alegados de como lo hizo parecen ser escandalosos.

La segunda cuestión prévia se gira alrededor de la doctrina Botín del mismo Tribunal Suprema, segón la cual el Tribunal no debe conocer una causa que no cuenta con el apoyo de la fiscalía.

Al oír los argumentos, el Tribunal Supremo suspendió el proceso por una semana mientras llegue a las decisiones correspondientes sobre las cuestiones prévias. De aceptar cualquiera de las dos, el caso se clausurá, dejando a Garzón a la espera de la decisión del Tribunal Supremo en el caso de “las escuchas Gürtel”.

Para los últimos reportajes, véase, por ejemplo:

Julio M. Lázaro, “El fiscal y Garzón exigen la nulidad de la “insólita” instrucción de Varela: Durísimo informe de la fiscalía contra la acusación admitida a Manos Limpias,” El País, 24 de enero de 2012.

Lázaro cita al fiscal Luís Navajas, quien declaró lo siguiente:

“En mis 36 años como fiscal, jamás había visto una resolución parecida, ni en el fondo ni en la forma”, dijo sobre las indicaciones de Varela. Para el fiscal, fue una decisión “absolutamente insólita e insostenible” y la consecuencia fue “transmutar una acusación que no se sostenía” y sobre la que el juez del Supremo coadyuvó “a reconstruir lo que era absolutamente irreconstruíble”.

Véase tambíen,

N. Villanueva, “El fiscal defiende a Garzón y pide que la «memoria histórica» se zanje sin juicio: Arremete contra el instructor, Luciano Varela, por sentar al juez en el banquillo: algo «insólito e insostenible»,”, 25 de enero de 2012.

Un comentario por Luis García Montero–quien es poeta, no jurista–sobre el significado más amplio de los casos contra Garzón, que él compara al caso Dreyfuss en Francia al fines del siglo 19, habla de la extrema partidarización de las justicia en España. Además comenta:

Hay situaciones que simbolizan el malestar de una época y, más allá de su significado particular, ponen el dedo en la llaga de un momento histórico. Así ocurrió a finales del sigo XIX con el juicio seguido en Francia contra el capitán Alfred Dreyfus. La falsa acusación de espionaje y la condena a la isla del Diablo tuvo el apoyo decidido del nacionalismo violento y los poderes antisemitas, pero provocó la indignación de una parte de la sociedad, el sector más democrático y concienciado. El caso Dreyfus resumía las contradicciones y las mentiras de la Tercera República francesa.

Ocurrió lo mismo con los debates provocados en España a partir de 1921 por el Desastre de Annual. La tragedia y su polémica pusieron al descubierto no ya las corrupciones dentro de la monarquía de Alfonso XIII, sino la corrupción misma de un régimen fundado en la manipulación de la voluntad popular y en la distancia entre la España oficial y la España real.

Los juicios contra Baltasar Garzón representan un acontecimiento parecido….
Aquí no se discute si Baltasar Garzón es simpático o antipático, si resolvió bien o mal en un caso del pasado o si nos parecen oportunos los jueces estrella. Se discute si actuó como prevaricador en las instrucciones del caso Gürtel o en la causa contra los crímenes del franquismo. La opinión de numerosos juristas nacionales e internacionales defiende las interpretaciones del juez Garzón. Esa es la prueba evidente de que no existe delito de prevaricación, sino una forma posible de interpretar la ley.

¿Qué ocurre entonces? El Poder Judicial español descansa en la misma inercia bipartidista que el juego político. No participar de la disciplina de los unos o los otros, como caras de un sistema de control, significa quedarse a la intemperie. El bipartidismo –yo coloco a los míos y tú a los tuyos– ha generado familias de poder que se autoalimentan y actúan de acuerdo con sus rencores profesionales.

Aunque la Fiscalía y los mandos policiales avalan sus actuaciones contra una trama vergonzosa de corruptos, Baltasar Garzón parece condenado. El descrédito nacional e internacional de la Justicia española es un síntoma. Vivimos en un reino degradado, con una memoria y unas instituciones degradadas. La prevaricación es nuestra propia realidad. Somos una mentira. Damos risa.

–Luis García Montero, “Dreyfus, Annual y Garzón,” Blog “La realidad y el sueño”, Pú (blogs), 22 de enero de 2012.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Véase otros artículos de Observador Incisivo sobre el Caso Garzón, entre ellos los siguientes:

The legal essence of the cases of “prevaricación” against Baltasar Garzón
January 20, 2012

Complaint before U.N. Special Rapporteur alleges U.S. judicial interference in Garzón torture cases in Spain
January 19, 2012

The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial
January 17, 2012

¡Que pena para España! Los casos contra Garzón llegan al juicio
16 de enero de 2012

Tribunal Supremo de Justicia rechaza apelación de Garzón para ordenar pruebas; quedan pendientes otros recursos
21 de setiembre de 2010

The legal essence of the cases of “prevaricación” against Baltasar Garzón

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The most essential legal aspect of two of the cases against Baltasar Garzón, the case relating to the Gürtel network wiretaps (las escuchas Gürtel) and the case relating to “historical memory”, is often obscured by a focus on whether Garzón made the right decisions in these cases, or not.

That aspect is the nature of the judicial error he is accused of committing. It is not unusual for judges to reach decisions that prove to be erroneous when reversed on appeal by a higher court. This is the normal way control of legality and of the actions of judges is maintained.

But what is involved in the Gürtel network case and the “historical memory” case is something altogether different. These cases involve private criminal actions brought by the accused in the Gürtel case and by two right-wing groups in the “historical memory” case. Those who disagree with the judge’s previous decisions are now having their day in court–against the judge–in criminal actions which they themselves have brought.

The nature of the charge is signficant: prevaricación, willful decision against justice.

As the Spanish Supreme Court proceeds to deliberate and issue a decision in the Gürtel network case, after three days of an oral trial at the Court, it is useful to closely reread the texts of Articles 446 and 447 of the Spanish Criminal Code, which are the provisions the criminal action against Garzón are based on. Then, after analyzing carefully the text of the law, the reader can decide whether prevaricación has been committed or is being committed in the case, and by whom.

The following analysis is reproduced from The Trenchant Observer, “Garzon’s Accusers are Accused: Abuse of Judicial Power in Garzón Case is Stain on Spanish Judiciary, “The Trenchant Observer, April 13, 2010.

With respect to the case against Garzón, it is not an overstatement to say that the entire Judiciary in Spain is on trial.

It is difficult to comprehend how the Supreme Court of Spain has rejected earlier appeals by Garzón to halt the proceedings. Judge Varela, according to reports in El País, has jumped the gun by characterizing the facts in dispute as constituting the more serious of two possible crimes which the alleged facts could even conceivably have constituted.

The first crime is that of Intentional Unjust Decision (Prevaricación) under Article 446.3 of the Spanish Criminal Code, which provides:

Article 446

The Judge or Magistrate who, knowingly, shall issue a decision or resolution that is unjust shall be punished:

1) With sentence of from one to four years imprisonment in the case of an unjust judgment against the accused in a criminal case for a felony when the sentence has not yet been executed, and with one and a half times the same sentence if the judgment has been executed. In both cases there will be imposed the additional punishment of absolute disqualification for a period of 10 to 20 years.

2) With the sentence of a fine of six to 12 months (wages) and special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of six to 12 years, in the case of an unjust judgment issued against a defendant in the case of a midemeanor (falta),

3) With the sentence of a fine of 12 to 24 months (wages) and special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of 10 to 20 years, when he issues any other decision or resolution that is unjust.

The second crime is that of Grossly Negligent Unjust Decision (Prevaricación) under Article 447 of the Criminal Code, which provides:

Article 447

The judge or magistrate who, by gross imprudence or inexcusable ignorance (imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable), shall issue a decision or resolution which is manifestly unjust shall incur the punishment of special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of from two to six years.

Given the clear precedents that exist in international law, including a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in 2003 upholding the French conviction of Ely Ould Dah of Mauritania for torture despite the fact that he was not present at the trial and despite a law of amnesty in Mauritania, it is difficult to see how the Spanish Supreme Court could reject the appeal of the denial of Garzon’s motion for dismissal, as they in fact did.

Whether Baltasar Garzón’s decisions were correct or not in accordance with Spanish law is a matter for the Spanish courts, and ultimately the European Court of Human Rights, to decide. The European Convention on Human Rights is itself part of Spanish constitutional law.

Appealing the decisions of a judge on legal grounds is a correct and proper way to express disagreement with a decision, within a democratic state governed by law.

Criminally prosecuting the judge who is the author of that decision in an attempt to end his career, is quite something else.

A travesty of justice has already occurred, at two levels: first, the order of prosecution by Judge Luciano Varela, and second, the decision of the Supreme Court to deny Garzon’s appeal of Varela’s denial of his motion for dismissal.

How long this travesty of justice continues will tell us a lot about the Spanish judiciary and the individuals who currently hold the highest judicial offices in Spain.

The idea that a European judge could have his career in effect ended by the machinations of fellow judges against him, for ordering the investigation of where victims of crimes against humanity (forced disappearances and presumed executions) are buried, is a stain on the Spanish Judiciary, which will remain until Garzón is cleared of these charges and any other charges of a similar nature.

Should the Spanish courts persist in failing to rectify this obvious abuse of judicial power, that stain will ultimately be sealed in history with a judgment against Spain by the European Court of Human Rights.


While the analysis above refers to the “historical memory” case, it applies equally to the Gürtel network case, which was tried in the Supreme Court on January 17, 18 and 19, 2012. We are awaiting the decision in that case.

The trial of Garzón for prevaricación in the “historical memory” case begins next week, on January 24.

Stay tuned.

The Trenchant Observer


See also The Trenchant Observer, “The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial,” January 17, 2012 (updated January 20, 2012).

Update: Torture, The STL in Lebanon, and Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Today we introduce a new feature in The Trenchant Observer, an occasional column commenting on some of the more important events of the previous weeks in international affairs, as seen by the Observer.

This week’s stories include U.S. policy toward torture prosecutions, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and President Obama’s speech on “the way forward” in Afghanistan.

The United States’ Adoption of the “Due Obedience” Defense in Cases of Torture

This week the Justice Department announced that it would pursue investigations into two cases involving the deaths of detainees who were preseumably subjected to “harsh interrogation techniques” that went beyond the types of torture (as defined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture) that were permitted under the George W. Bush Administration’s “legal guidance”on “harsh interrogation technicques”.

See Eric Lichtblau and Eric Schmitt, “iU.S. Widens Inquiries Into 2 Jail Deaths,” New York Times, July 1, 2011

With that, the Justice department has ended its investigation into the broad class of cases that appear to qualify as cases involving the commission of torture under the terms of the Torture Convention, to which–it must always be stressed–the United States is a party.

By taking the position that it will not prosecute individuals for acts of torture if they were permitted under the legal guidance provided by their superiors in the Bush Administration, the United States has in effect accepted the “due obedience” argument rejected by the Nuremburg Tribunal in its trials of Nazi war criminals following World War II. This rejection of the “due obedience” defense is universally accepted in international law. It is expressly confirmed in the Torture Convention in Article 2 paragraph 3, which provides:

Article 2 (3). An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Other countries parties to the Torture Convention may now proceed to prosecute individuals suspected of committing torture found within their territory, without much concern that the U.S. will rquest their extradition for trial in the U.S., given the Justice Department’s position.

This signals a clear and final decision by the Obama administration not to pursue other cases of torture committed during the Bush administration.

It is significant for two reasons. First, it represents a final decision not to prosecute cases of torture by the state with primary jurisdiction, in violation of U.S. international legal obligations under the Torture Convention.

Second, it further opens the way for other states that are parties to the Torture Convention to prosecute U.S. officials for acts of torture they may have committed.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has now issued arrest warrants and delivered the same to the Government of Lebanon for it to carry out the arrests.

In an earlier article, published on March 3, 2011, The Observer wrote:

In Lebanon, Hezbollah withdrew in January from the unity government of Sa’ad Hariri, among thinly-veiled threats of civil war, if the government of Lebanon does not break ties with the U.N. International Tribunal for Lebanon, established by the Security Council to investigate and try those responsible for the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005. Hezbollah is militating against the United Nations Security Council, international law, and the tribunal established by the Security Council because, according to reports, it fears the Tribunal will issue indictments against Hezbollah members in the coming days or weeks.

The Tribunal itself has a statute which establishes due process of law for the hearing of the charges which may be brought by the Prosecutor of the Court. Hezbollah is arguing, if effect, that the Court is biased before any judicial proceedings against its members are initiated, and without regard to the fact that they will have a chance for a fair hearing, the questioning of evidence and of witnesses, in any proceedings that might be brought. With black shirts menacing and threatening to take physical control of West Beirut and large parts of the country, Hezbollah has positioned itself as an anti-democratic force opposed to the struggle for the rule of law within Lebanon, and one opposed to the United Nations, the Security Council and international law.

Outside parties have rushed to mediate. A Saudi-Syrian initiative has now been replaced by a Qatari-Turkish mediation effort. Democracy is in the balance.

What is at stake is the authority of the U.N. Security Council, the United Nations Charter, and international law. If Hezbollah can halt the cooperation of the government of Lebanon with the STL by threats of civil war and dividing the country in two, its success would not bode well for the future of the International Criminal Court or other international tribunals that might be established in the future to deal with issues such as the Hariri assassination or issues of transitional justice.

We will now see whether Hezbollah has changed it position, and is willing to turn away from its opposition to international law, the United Nations, and the authority of the Special Tribunan for Lebanon established by the Security Council.

Democracy and the rule of law in Lebanon hang in the balance.

Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan

Recently Ambassador Carl Eikenberry completed his term as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He is being replaced by an extraordinarily skilled deplomat with deep experience in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Eikenberry’s departure should not go unnoticed, however. A former head of the coalition forces in Afghanistan before becoming Ambassador in 2009, Eikenberry headed an able diplomatic team. In 2009, toward the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s much-touted review of Afghanistan policy, cables written by Eikenberry in November, 2009 were leaked to the press.

In those cables, Ekenberry, who had a deep knowledge of Afghanistan before assuming his post as Ambassador, set forth his thinking about President Hamid Karzai’s government, the narrow limitations of the Afghanistan policy review, and his own cautionary words about the risks of proceeding with the “surge” of over 30,000 U.S. troops without a broader review.

Today, his words seem prophetic, and read more like the history of the last two years than the risk assessment they were originally intended to be.

See The Observer’s previous columns on this subject:

Eikenberry Memos Place Spotlight on U.S. Dilemmas in Afghanistan
January 27th, 2010

Commentary on Eikenberry Cables, Intelligence on Afghanistan
January 28th, 2010

On June 22, 2011, President Obama delivered an important speech to the nation setting forth his thoughts and policies on “the way forward in Afghanistan.”

Adminral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated publicly that Obama’s new strategy of withdrawal represented more risk than he had originally been propared to accept. The military, including Petraeus, did not agree with what in all likelihood will represent an abandonment of the modified and limited counter-insurgency or COIN strategy Petraeus had led. Toby Harnden of The Telegraph reported, for example,

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said: “Petraeus loses, Biden wins. And I respect the vice president, but I think that we have undercut a strategy that was working. I think the 10,000 troops leaving year is going to make this more difficult.”

The Pentagon fought a rearguard action to prevent the surge force ordered into Afghanistan by Mr Obama in December 2009 from being pulled out by early spring next year but the withdrawal plan announced by Mr Obama, which had initially been tabled as a “compromise” by Robert Gates, the defence secretary, was not supported by Gen Petraeus.

There were reports of heated discussions during the month before Mr Obama’s prime-time speech on Wednesday night.

White House officials, aware of the soaring costs of the war and its questionable progress could be a political liability in the 2012 election, are said to have clashed with Gen Petraeus, who argued that with more time he could repeat his success in Iraq.

Harnden reported further that Obama had rejected Petraeus’ proposal to move thousands of troops from the south to the east “in order to build a counter-insurgency campaign there.” Obama also overrode Petraeus’ request to keep some of the 33,000 troops to be withdrawn by this spring until 2013.

Two military officers with close ties to Petraeus told “National Journal” that Gen Petraeus disagreed with Mr Gates’s compromise proposal and had not endorsed Mr Obama’s drawdown plan.

–Toby Harnden, “Admiral Mike Mullen says withdrawal plan is a risk,” The Telegraph, June 23, 2010

To those who have followed developments in Afghanistan over the last five to eight years, including readers of The Trenchant Observer, there was nothing new in his speech.

Rather, the Observer’s appraisal of Obama’s approach to international affairs, offered in an analysis of his failed leadership in Libya, seems to describe his Afghan policy as well:

When one looks hard at the decisions he has made, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the president’s primary objective is “to manage” international conflicts and affairs, as domestic affairs, in a manner that will enable him to be reelected in 2012.

Reelection is probably a goal of almost all politicians. Certainly there are exceptions. Winston Churchill comes to mind. But with Presdent Obama, it appears to be the primary and overriding goal.

It is perhaps the prism through which the president’s actions can best be understood. In this sense, Obama’s current policy towards Libya seems to be succeeding.

For commentary on the president’s speech, see

Jennifer Rubin, “Liberals give thumbs down on Obama’s speech,” Washington Post, June 23, 2011

A “conditions based” withdrawal of 10,000 troops is meaningless. The “conditions based” withdrawal of additional troops from the surge will meet its test if and when one or more provinces fall to the Taliban.

A collapse of the Afghan government is not to be ruled out. It could come at a most unexpected moment. If it were to come before the presidential elections in 2012, it could have a decisive impact on their outcome.

The folly of following a strategy in foreign policy that is decisively determined by domestic political considerations is likely to have hard lessons to teach its authors.

The Trenchant Observer

Tribunal Supremo de Justicia rechaza apelación de Garzón para ordenar pruebas; quedan pendientes otros recursos

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

El Observador Incisivo

El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de España ha rechazado la apelación del juez Baltasar Garzón del auto de Luciano Varela que denegó su solicitud de presentar pruebas de expertos en el derecho penal y el derecho penal internacional, en el caso de “La Memoria Histórica”.

El estado de ánimo, la intención de Garzón en los momentos de abrir y dictar resoluciones en el caso de la memoria histórico, constituye el elemento primordial del delito de prevaricación del cual está acusado. Las pruebas solicitadas tendrían como objeto demostrar que lo que él creía ser ajustado al derecho español y al derecho penal internacional representaba una creencia razonable.

El hecho de que su creencia era razonable le hace más difícil al promotor comprobar que actuaba contra la justicia “a sabiendas”, esto en el caso del artículo 446 (3). En el caso del Artiículo 447, le haría muy difícil al promotor comprobar que la actuación de Garzón fuera “por imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable” al dictar una “sentencia o resolución manifiestamente injusta.”

Jurídicamente, no se requiere que Garzón tuviera la razón absoluta en el caso del Artículo 446 (3). En el caso del Artículo 447, la resolución dificilmente podría ser “manifiestamente injusta” si otros expertos en la materia creían que era correcta, a menos que existiera jurisprudencia legal obligatoria sobre la cuestión.

El texto del Artículo 446 (3) del Código Penal establece:


Artículo 446.

El Juez o Magistrado que, a sabiendas, dictare sentencia o resolución injusta será castigado:

1. Con la pena de prisión de uno a cuatro años si se trata de sentencia injusta contra el reo en causa criminal por delito y la sentencia no hubiera llegado a ejecutarse, y con la misma pena en su mitad superior y multa de doce a veinticuatro meses si se ha ejecutado. En ambos casos se impondrá, además, la pena de inhabilitación absoluta por tiempo de diez a veinte años.

2. Con la pena de multa de seis a doce meses e inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de seis a diez años, si se tratara de una sentencia injusta contra el reo dictada en proceso por falta.

3. Con la pena de multa de doce a veinticuatro meses e inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de diez a veinte años, cuando dictara cualquier otra sentencia o resolución injustas.

El Artículo 447 del Códígo confirma que las palabras “a sabiendas” del Artículo 446 es más que “imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable,” lo que está sancionado con inhabilitación especial de hasta seis años. El Artiículo 447 establece lo siguiente:

Artículo 447.

El Juez o Magistrado que por imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable dictara sentencia o resolución manifiestamente injusta incurrirá en la pena de inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de dos a seis años.

Véase The Tenchant Observer, “Se acusan a los acusadores de Garzón; el caso Garzón es una mancha en el Poder Judicial
de España,” 14 de Abril de 2010.

Así que, de un golpe, el Supremo deniega a Garzón elementos de prueba contundentes para establecer que era razonable lo que creía requerido por el derecho, y de ahí la falta de mala intención de su parte, en el momento de abrir y actuar en el caso de la memoria histórico.

Por lo demás, informa El País,

Es decir, que el tribunal quiere pronunciarse lo justito, porque los cinco magistrados que firman la resolución y que ya han resuelto cuestiones que afectan al fondo del asunto, quieren ser los que juzguen a Garzón por estos hechos. Varios magistrados de otros tribunales y catedráticos no se explican este empecinamiento de estos magistrados de la Sala Segunda en ser ellos los que juzguen a Garzón. Estas fuentes consideran que una eventual condena de Garzón de seguir este procedimiento sería anulado por el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos por falta de imparcialidad, ya que el tribunal que instruye no puede juzgar y esta Sala ha resuelto en apelación extremos que afectan al fondo del asunto, por lo que estarían claramente contaminados. Los citados magistrados y catedráticos no comprenden por qué el Supremo no designa a otros magistrados -la Sala la integran 15 jueces- para juzgar el caso y salvar el problema. Pero el caso es que son estos los que van a juzgar a Garzón.

–José Yoldi, “El Supremo rechaza las pruebas pedidas por Garzón para su defensa,” El País, el 8 de setiembre de 2010

Quedan pendientes, en tanto, otros recursos de Garzón relacionados al caso de la memoria histórico. Estos inclyen recursos de nulidad de las actuaciones, a los cuales no ha respondido el Supremo Tribunal de Justicia no obstante el largo tiempo transcurrido. Informa El País:

La Sala Segunda del Supremo llevaba cuatro meses sin resolver nada en este asunto desde que el juez instructor, Luciano Varela, notificó siete resoluciones en un mismo día.

Dos de los recursos fueron de nulidad de actuaciones planteados por el abogado de Baltasar Garzón, Gonzalo Martínez Fresneda, y a los que se adhirió el fiscal con un escrito con notoria contundencia. El letrado denunciaba que Varela había instruido a los querellantes Manos Limpias sobre la forma en la que tenían que presentar su escrito de acusación. Aunque retiraron varias páginas que habían sido literalmente copiadas de un auto de Varela, éste les indicó qué aspectos tenían que incluir en su escrito, lo que suponía una vulneración del principio de igualdad de armas en el proceso, ya que ayudaba a una de las partes en contra de otra.

El fiscal se adhirió a los recursos de apelación planteados por la defensa de Garzón en términos muy duros.

–El País, 8 de setiembre de 2010

Véase también “Garzón, más cerca de un juicio injusto,”, 21 de setiembre de 2010.

Parece casi seguro, ahora, que los magistrados de la sala segunda penal del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia que denegaron las pruebas solicitadas por Garzón (Juan Saavedra, Adolfo Prego, Joaquín Jiménez, Francisco Monterde y Juan Ramón Berdugo), y que han tardado tanto en fallar sobre los demás recursos de Garzón, pasarán a la historia como actores principales en este caso increíble.

No es una exageración afirmar que este caso riesga de convertirse en algo como el caso Dreyfus de España, pero ya a la altura del año 2010 del siglo veintiuno.

Es lamentable que un judicatura altamente politizada no aprecie el importe histórico de lo que está haciendo. Bien que llegara a absolver a Garzón, en última instancia, el daño a la credibilidad del Poder Judicial español y a la sociedad española ya se habrá producido.

Es una pena.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Véase también www.congarzó

La defensa pide al Tribunal Supremo la absolución del juez Garzón

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

El Observador Incisivo

El escrito del abogado solicita el archivo de la causa por los crímenes del franquismo, como pide la fiscalía

El abogado de Baltasar Garzón, Gonzalo Martínez-Fresneda, ha pedido al Tribunal Supremo la absolución del juez en la causa abierta contra él por investigar los crímenes del franquismo. En el escrito de defensa presentado ayer, el letrado solicita la aplicación de la doctrina Botín, es decir, que no se abra juicio oral a instancias de la acusación popular, que ejercen Manos Limpias y la asociación Libertad e Identidad, ya que la fiscalía ha pedido el archivo de la causa.
–El País, 18 de junio de 2010

Véase también: el escrito de la defensa del juez Garzón.

Véase igualmente:

Manifiesto de Apoyo al Juez Garzón

The Trenchant Observer (El Observador Incisivo), Análisis profundizado de los errores de Varela en el “Caso Garzón”, 20 de mayo de 2010, que contiene además una lista de artículos anteriores por el Observador.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)
“trenchantobserv” en Twitter

Los comentarios son invitados.

Análisis profundizado de los errores de Varela en el “Caso Garzón”

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

El Observador Incisivo

Un excelente artículo, publicado en El País del 19 de mayo de 2010, revisa la historia procesal del “Caso Garzón”, citando los múltiples errores del juez Luciano Varela en sus actuaciones con relación a la querella contra Garzón. Para los que se interesan en el fondo jurídico del caso, el artículo es de lectura obligatoria. Véase:

Andrés Márquez Aranda y Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, “A Garzón se le está negando un juicio justo,” El País, 19 de mayo de 2010

(Subtítulo) En este asunto, Varela incumple el modelo de juez constitucional, neutral e imparcial. Como señala la fiscalía, tramita el proceso atendiendo y favoreciendo a las acusaciones, con manifiesta indefensión del querellado.

(Andrés Márquez Aranda fue presidente del TSJ de Andalucía y Carlos Jiménez Villarejo fiscal jefe Anticorrupción.)

Veáse también los artículos siguientes:

Manifiesto de Apoyo al Juez Garzón

Los artículos y comentarios sobre el “Caso Garzón” ya publicados por El Observador Incisvo (The Trenchant Observer) se listan a continuación:

Prix René Cassin; Auto de Varela de apertura de juicio contra Garzón; Intervenciones de parte de la Fiscalía
18 de mayo de 2010

Más reportajes y comentarios sobre el fondo jurídico del ‘Caso Garzón’
2 de mayo de 2010

Sobre el fondo jurídico del caso de prevaricación contra Baltasar Garzón
16 de abril de 2010

Se acusan a los acusadores de Garzón; el caso Garzón es una mancha en el Poder Judicial de España
14 de abril de 2010

Garzon’s Accusers are Accused: Abuse of Judicial Power in Garzón Case is Stain on Spanish Judiciary
April 13, 2010

Reportajes y Comentarios Sobre el Caso de Baltasar Garzón
12 de abril de 2010

In Spain, Judge Baltasar Garzón, Champion of Human Rights, is Prosecuted
April 11, 2010

En España, Enjuician al Juez Baltasar Garzón, Campeón de los Derechos Humanos
10 de abril de 2010

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Se invitan los comentarios y críticas.

Prix René Cassin; Auto de Varela de apertura de juicio contra Garzón; Intervenciones de parte de la Fiscalía

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
photo AFP/Olivier Laban Mattei --juge baltasar garzon a sciences-po à Paris

Photo AFP/Olivier Laban-Matteile -- juge espagnol baltasar garzon à sciences-po à Paris

El Observador Incisivo

Documentos y reportajes de especial interés con respecto al fondo jurídico del Caso Garzón incluyen los siguientes:

AFP, “Le juge Garzon à Paris: ‘la justice s’imposera,”” L’Express, le 17 mai 2010

Auto de Varela de Apertura de Juicio en el Caso Garzón, 11 de mayo de 2010

Texto de la intervención de la Fiscalía en el caso Garzón, 10 de mayo de 2010

Julio M. Lázaro, “La Fiscalía del Supremo pide la absolución de Garzón tras la apertura de juicio,” El País, 17 de mayo de 2010.

“Le juge Garzon réveille les plaies de l’Espagne,” (Edito), Le Monde, le 15 mai 2010

Véase el Manifiesto de apoyo al juez Garzón, con su análisis jurídico y otros links a artículos de interés, en el sitio siguiente:

Manifiesto de Apoyo al Juez Garzón

Los artículos y comentarios ya publicados por El Observador Incisvo (The Trenchant Observer) se listan a continuación:

Más reportajes y comentarios sobre el fondo jurídico del ‘Caso Garzón’
2 de mayo de 2010

Sobre el fondo jurídico del caso de prevaricación contra Baltasar Garzón
16 de abril de 2010

Se acusan a los acusadores de Garzón; el caso Garzón es una mancha en el Poder Judicial de España
14 de abril de 2010

Garzon’s Accusers are Accused: Abuse of Judicial Power in Garzón Case is Stain on Spanish Judiciary
April 13, 2010

Reportajes y Comentarios Sobre el Caso de Baltasar Garzón
12 de abril de 2010

In Spain, Judge Baltasar Garzón, Champion of Human Rights, is Prosecuted
April 11, 2010

En España, Enjuician al Juez Baltasar Garzón, Campeón de los Derechos Humanos
10 de abril de 2010

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Se invitan los comentarios y críticas.

Más reportajes y comentarios sobre el fondo jurídico del ‘Caso Garzón’

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Un conocido juez antiterrorista en Francia ha afirmado que la actuación judicial con respecto a las querellas contra el juez Baltasar Garzón, por parte de una magistratura politizada como la que existe en España, jamás podría occurrir en Francia.

José Yoldi, “El juez antiterrorista francés muestra su claro apoyo a Garzón,” El País, el 2 de mayo de 2010

Sobre la distorsión de lo que es el delito de prevaricación en el ‘Caso Garzón’, véase

Javier Pérez Royo,”Delito Imposible,” El País, el 17 de abril de 2010

Un excelente resumen de las actuaciones y argumentos jurídicos en el caso Garzón se encuentra en el siguiente artículo, que a la vez contiene muchos links a fuentes primarias y otras:

“La causa contra Garzón por la investigación del franquismo;
El juez se enfrenta a una posible inhabilitación de hasta 20 años por supuesta prevaricación,” El País, el 28 de abril de 2010

La actuación de la fiscalía se describe en el siguiente artículo:

“La fiscalía apela a la coherencia jurídica de Varela para evitar que Garzón se siente en el banquillo,” El País, 22 de abril de 2010

Un ex-presidente de las Salas Segunda y Quinta del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia defiende el principio de que las críticas contra las actuaciones de la magistratura no son antidemocráticas, en el sigiente artículo:

Jose Jiménez Villarejo, “Tribuna (Columna), ‘Caso Garzón’: las críticas no son excesivas, El País, el 29 de abril de 2010

Véase también el Manifiesto de apoyo al juez Garzón, con su análisis jurídico y otros links a artículos de interés, en el sitio siguiente:

Manifiesto de Apoyo al Juez Garzón

Los artículos y comentarios ya publicados por El Observador Incisvo (The Trenchant Observer) se listan a continuación:

Sobre el fondo jurídico del caso de prevaricación contra Baltasar Garzón
16 de abril de 2010

Se acusan a los acusadores de Garzón; el caso Garzón es una mancha en el Poder Judicial de España
14 de abril de 2010

Garzon’s Accusers are Accused: Abuse of Judicial Power in Garzón Case is Stain on Spanish Judiciary
April 13, 2010

Reportajes y Comentarios Sobre el Caso de Baltasar Garzón
12 de abril de 2010

In Spain, Judge Baltasar Garzón, Champion of Human Rights, is Prosecuted
April 11, 2010

En España, Enjuician al Juez Baltasar Garzón, Campeón de los Derechos Humanos
10 de abril de 2010

El Observador Incisivo

(The Trenchant Observer)

Se invitan los comentarios y críticas.

Nota: El Observador continúa en sus vacaciones.