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

“Scoop” World–Independent News ( has just published a press release by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), according to which the two organizations have

filed a formal complaint to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mrs. Gabriela Knaul. The groups submitted evidence from U.S.-Madrid embassy cables obtained through WikiLeaks that show that senior U.S. and Spanish officials sought to interfere with the Spanish judicial process in order to shield Americans from criminal prosecution for torture and unlawful killing.

The press release contains links to the Wikileaks cables which revealed the degree of apparent U.S. interference.

The complaint focuses on three criminal cases currently before the Spanish courts in which all potential defendants are U.S. citizens. The first is an investigation into the systematic use of torture at U.S.-run detention centers in Guantánamo and elsewhere initiated by Judge Baltasar Garzón, who oversaw the investigation until he was removed from office in 2010. The second case is the so-called “Bush Six case,” filed against former Bush administration lawyers for elaborating and authorizing a torture policy, and aiding and abetting the torture of detainees. The third case regards the unlawful killing of José Couso Permuy, a Spanish cameraman killed in Baghdad in 2003 as a result of U.S. tank fire at his hotel.

In particular, the press release reported the following:

An April 17, 2009 embassy cable reveals that U.S. officials conducted “intensive outreach” in order to influence Spanish Attorney General Conde Pumpido on the Bush Six case. According to the cable, the day after U.S. officials warned that continued proceedings would have an “enormous impact” on the U.S.-Spain relationship, Conde Pumpido “publicly stated that prosecutors will ‘undoubtedly’ not support [the] criminal complaint.” Similarly, after Judge Garzón initiated a criminal investigation into the torture of four former detainees, in a May 5, 2009 cable, Chief Prosecutor Zaragoza tells U.S. embassy officials that “he will also fight [Judge] Garzón’s latest move.” At this meeting, Zaragoza outlined the way he could “embarrass” Judge Garzón into dropping his investigation into the U.S. torture program and says that he “has a strategy to force [Garzón’s] hand.” Cables related to the Couso case reveal interventions by both Spanish and American officials in an effort to have the criminal investigation closed: the U.S. ambassador’s account of having “fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear” is met with a similar account by the Spanish Vice President de la Vega, who expressed appreciation for the “excellent cooperation” between U.S. officials and the Spanish attorney general “in helping bring the case to a conclusion.”

–Center for Constitutional Rights, “Press Release: Complaint Filed with U.N. Special Rapporteur Alleges Interference with Spanish Judicial Process: U.S. and Spanish Authorities Attempted to Stop Cases Seeking Accountability of U.S. Officials for Torture and Unlawful Killing,” “Scoop” World–Independent News 20 January 2012.

“The Bush Six” included the following individuals:

Alberto Gonzales, former United States Attorney General;
John Yoo, of the Office of Legal Counsel;
Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy;
William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense (chief counsel for Donald Rumsfeld);
Jay Bybee, also at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and
David Addington, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States (under Dick Cheney).

With respect to the case against Garzón based on his actions in the the “historical memory” case, which goes to trial on January 24, the press release contains a link to a statement by the CCJ, the ECCHR, the International Commission of Jurists and other human rights organizations which points out, among other things, that Spain’s Constitution provides that international law is part of Spanish law:

The panel of the Supreme Court has the option of complying with the provision of the Spanish Constitution establishing that international law forms part of Spanish law (Art. 10.2 and 96), rather than persevering with a misguided move to punish a judge for applying international law standards – such as the principle that crimes against humanity cannot be subject to statutes of limitations or amnesty. In other words, the Supreme Court has the possibility of becoming the guarantor of human
rights, as judges in other parts of the world have done, or of breaking with international law and standards and so destroying the possibility of access to justice for the victims of serious violations of human rights such as those that took place during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime.

As the press release and Wikileaks cables suggest, it may well be that there is a connection between U.S. actions in 2009 seeking to interfere with Spanish judicial proceedings in which Garzón was involved, and the extreme lengths to which members of the Supreme Court of Spain seem to have gone, at least until now, to end his career on apparently spurious charges of willful and knowing decisions against justice (prevaricacion).

The details of such a connection, if it exists, remain murky, although significant clues are contained in the Embassy cables of April 1, April 17 and May 5, 2009, which have been released by Wikileaks.

The Trenchant Observer