Happier Days: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

with former President George W. Bush in 2006.



Publico, Spain

Torture Charges Filed Against Bush Legal Team; Judge Garzon Handles Case


"George W. Bush may continue to relax in Texas, but he must have at least one eye on Spain. A group of lawyers has submitted the first criminal complaint against members of his cabinet to National Court [Audiencia Nacional] for violating basic international rights and practicing torture at the Guantánamo base."


By Pere Rusiñol


Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


March 28, 2009


Spain - Publico - Original Article (Spanish)

Judge Baltasar Garzon Real: The Spanish migistrate is best known for bringing Chilian Dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial for murder and torture, and in this connection, for wanting to investigate former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Now on his desk is a complaint against the legal team of President George W. Bush.


BBC NEWSNIGHT: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales responds to claims that it was his legal advice that led to the torture of terrorist suspects, Feb. 5, 00:06:54 RealVideo

George W. Bush may continue to relax in Texas, but he must have at least one eye on Spain. A group of lawyers has submitted the first criminal complaint against members of his cabinet to the National Court [Audiencia Nacional] for violating basic international rights and practicing torture at the Guantánamo base. 


The complaint, filed on March 17, is already on the desk of Judge Baltasar Garzón. And although Garzón hasn’t formally initiated proceedings, the consequences are already being felt: legal sources explain that the judge has issued an order in which he asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office to examine the complaint, which is not aimed directly at Bush but against the team of lawyers at the White House and Pentagon who created the legal framework that justified Guantánamo and the use of torture in the “war against terrorism.”


The complaint has been put forward by four lawyers: Gonzalo Boyé, Isabel Elbal, Luis Velasco and Antonio Segura, who all have experience in cases of crimes against humanity not limited to the places they were committed but which, due to their gravity, are subject to prosecution anywhere in the world. This is the same legal team that filed suit against former Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer for his responsibility in the deaths of 14 civilians during the bombardment of Gaza in July 2002. That complaint has already been declared admissible for trial by National Court Judge Fernando Andreu, which has provoked the indignation of the Israeli government.


BBC NEWSNIGHT: An examination of Alberto Gonzales - Bush

legal counsel and attorney general, Feb. 5, 00:06:38 WATCH


The new complaint compels the National Court to take on the case of Guantánamo in the name of universal jurisdiction, invoked when confronted with the flouting of fundamental principles. But the plaintiffs have found a formula that ties the case to Spain, thereby improving their chances: they recall that Judge Baltasar Garzón opened proceedings against five people for alleged links to a Spanish cell of al-Qaeda: Lahcen Ikassrien, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Reswad Abdulsam, Abu Anas and Omar Deghayes, who have all passed through Guantánamo. The five were eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court precisely because their statements were extracted under torture at Guantánamo, and so were not admissible.


This link is what has given Garzón standing to reopen that case and ask the Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether the new complaint alters that previous case enough to require the prosecution of those whose actions were the deciding factor in that case, and who are charged with being responsible for the torture. This would be one way of directing the complaint. The other would be to accept the new complaint as an independent case.



The only precedent for the complaint filed before the High Court occurred in Germany in 2006 and was dismissed. But on that occasion, the complaint was aimed directly at Bush and his top man in the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, and included accusations that were so general and philosophical that the process ended up achieving nothing.


  [The Daily Nation, Kenya]


The complaint that has now been filed in Madrid is much more concrete and achievable. It doesn't target the top echelon directly, but the jurists who elaborated the doctrine that international norms for the treatment of prisoners should be suspended due to the exceptionality of the “war against terrorism” embarked upon after the 9-11.


The accused are Alberto Gonzales, Bush's White House Counsel when the new policy was being laid out who later became attorney general; David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; William J. Haynes, counsel to the Department of Defense headed by Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, undersecretary for legal affairs in the DoD [precisely, undersecretary for policy]; Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, and John Yoo, another legal counsel in the first term of the Bush Administration, which created Guantánamo [the prison camp]. 



Outside experts stress that this complaint is much more likely to succeed than the 2006 complaint in Germany, precisely because it doesn’t aim as high. Of course, higher-ranking officials could be included if the case ultimately goes to trial, as the complaint itself clearly states: “Without undermining proceedings against persons who subsequently, as the investigation proceeds, may appear responsible for the acts here described.”




La Jornada, Mexico: Alberto Gonzales: The 'Executor' of Injustice

El Tiempo: Colombia Attorney General Gonzalez - a 'Terrible Betrayal'

The Recorder, U.S.: Profile of Jay Bybee, with Background on the Memos


The same experts also emphasize another element that differs from the German case: the Spanish judiciary is much more open to investigating violations of international law around the world, as has become clear with the trials against Latin American dictators, the War of the Great Lakes [the Congo civil war] and Israeli actions in Gaza, among others. In Spain, the law of universal jurisdiction is treated as absolute, which makes it easier to proceed to trial.




The complaint cites recently declassified internal memos of the Bush legal team, which detail the new policy of putting the "war on terror" beyond the limits of international treaties signed by the United States, such as Geneva Conventions that govern the treatment of prisoners, or the Convention Against Torture.


The nearly 100-page document is an exhaustive chronicle of how the Bush Administration constructed a new legal framework that threw overboard an over 200-year-old legal tradition. According to the plaintiffs, the documents show that Bush's advisors were aware that international law was being consciously violated.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 29, 2:38pm]




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