Spain May Bring ‘Torture’ Case Against Former Bush Administration Officials

April 15, 2009 - 5:16 AM
Spanish prosecutors may decide this week whether to recommend a full investigation into allegations that six Bush Administration officials sanctioned torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
Madrid, Spain (AP) - Spanish prosecutors will likely decide this week whether to recommend a full investigation into allegations that six Bush Administration officials sanctioned torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, an official in the prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
 
The decision would put the case back in the hands of an investigative judge on Spain's National Court. The judge would not be bound by the prosecutor's recommendation, however.
 
"We are expecting the decision this week," said the prosecutor's office official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with department rules. The National Court said it had no information on when the recommendation might come.
 
The case against the American officials -- including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith -- was brought by human rights lawyers before Spain's investigative judge, Baltasar Garzon, who sent it on to the prosecutors last month.
 
Under Spanish law, once the judge receives the prosecutor's recommendation, he can either drop the case or open a full-blown probe that could lead to an indictment. It is the investigative judge, not the prosecutors, who files criminal charges.
 
Spanish law gives its courts jurisdiction beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes, based on a doctrine known as universal justice, though the government has recently said it hopes to limit the scope of the legal process.
 
One of the human rights lawyers who brought the case, Gonzalo Boye, has told AP that the claim of Spanish jurisdiction was bolstered by the fact that five Guantanamo Bay inmates were either citizens or residents of Spain.
 
In addition to Gonzales and Feith, the complaint names former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. It alleges the men gave legal cover to torture by claiming that the U.S. president could ignore the Geneva Conventions.
 
Most of the men have not commented, but Feith has strongly rejected the charges and the claim that Spain has jurisdiction, saying the case was "a national insult with harmful implications."
 
Spain's government -- which is keen for improved relations with Washington -- has insisted the court is independent and that the executive branch has no sway over its decisions.
 
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Editor's Note: Associated Press reporter Jorge Sainz contributed to this report.