Torture Arrest Warrants Issued? Michael Ratner: Obama Must Now Prosecute Or Pardon.

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Crossposted from Antemedius

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon is recognized worldwide for his determination to bring suspects to justice, wherever they seek refuge or how old the crime.

A 2005 BBC profile of Garzon notes that:

He came to prominence in the late 1990s, when he campaigned for the extradition former Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet, from London to Spain for human rights abuses.

In late 2003 Judge Garzon compiled a 692-page indictment which called for the arrest of 35 men, including Osama Bin Laden, for their alleged membership of a terrorist group. The number of suspects was later increased to 41.



Mr Garzon is one of six investigating judges for Spain’s National Court which, like many other European countries, operates an inquisitorial system, as opposed to the adversarial system used by the US and UK.

The investigating judge’s role is to examine the cases assigned to him by the court, gathering evidence and evaluating whether the case should be brought to trial. He does not try the cases himself.

Today, April 30, 2009, Garzon opened a Spanish investigation into torture allegations against US military personnel at the Guantánamo detention centre:

Meanwhile in Berlin, Barack Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder said that about 30 Guantánamo detainees have been cleared for release and urged European allies to take some of them. Holder also signalled the Obama administration might cooperate with the Spanish investigation.

A recent decision by the Obama administration to release documents about Guantánamo helped the judge conclude that a police investigation, which could lead to criminal charges, was necessary.



“Mistakes were made” in the creation of the Guantánamo programme, Holder said. “Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it.”

“This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately created court, we would obviously respond to it,” he said.



Judge Garzón reportedly cited “documents declassified by the US administration” as giving evidence “of what previously could be intuited: an official plan of approved torture and abuse of people being held in custody while facing no charges and without the most basic rights of people who have been detained.”

He said he would now formally request copies of the documents from the United States.



Garzón has previously used international human rights laws to bring torturers from the Argentinian military dictatorships to trial in Madrid, with military officers from Argentina being found guilty and sent to Spanish jails.

Following close on the heels of Judge Garzon’s announcement today, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York, talks today with Real News Network CEO Paul Jay, notes that if Obama won’t prosecute Spain will, speculates that arrest warrants may have already been issued across Europe for the targets of Garzon’s investigation, and concludes that Obama is now left with two choices: either prosecute or pardon:



Real News Network – April 30, 2009

If Obama won’t prosecute, Spain will

Michael Ratner: Obama has a duty to prosecute while a Spanish judge moves ahead on his own

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    • Edger on April 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm
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    • Edger on May 1, 2009 at 12:20 am
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    Robert Byrd Demands Torture Investigation

    Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving Senator in history, today demanded an investigation of torture by the Bush Administration:

    The recently leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as the four released memorandums from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), confirm our worst fears. These documents point to brutal, inhumane acts which were repeatedly carried out by U.S. military personnel, and which were authorized and condoned at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. These acts appear to directly violate both the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. Spain and the United Kingdom have already initiated investigations of Bush Administration officials who approved these acts. The United States needs to investigate as well. To continue to ignore the mounting evidence of clear wrongdoing is a national humiliation.

    Byrd is the President pro tempore of the Senate, which puts him third in the line of Presidential succession behind Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi.

    [snip]

    Byrd’s new blog did not specify the form of the investigation, but insisted on “consequences” for those who “condoned and approved” torture.

    Whether it is through an independent investigation, a “Truth Commission,” a Congressional investigation, or a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, action must be taken. As long as those who condoned and approved these despicable acts are permitted to escape the consequences, we allow our moral standing in the world to be severely compromised. September 11 did not suddenly legalize torture, nor did it exonerate those who authorized such a heinous deviation from the rule of law. How we address these abuses will shape the image of the United States for decades. In order to truly clear our good name and put the past behind us, the United States must strive to be sure that this dark period of sick and secretive torture schemes receives the scrutiny it deserves.

    Byrd joins Senator Carl Levin and 16 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in calling for a criminal investigation into torture. Last week, President Obama said Attorney General Eric Holder would decide on prosecutions. When Holder testified before Congress, Democrats.com, ACLU, Moveon, and FireDogLake delivered over 250,000 petitions for a Special Prosecutor to Holder’s assistant. Holder promised David Swanson, “you will be proud of your country.”

  1. Nice job!

    As I noted last night and I’m repeating here, take note of the exacting language of the decision

    MADRID (AFP) – A Spanish judge on Wednesday opened an investigation into an alleged “systematic programme” of torture at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp, following accusations by four former prisoners.

    Judge Baltasar Garzon will probe the “perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices” to crimes of torture at the prison at the US naval base in southern Cuba, he said in his ruling, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

    The judge based his decision on statements by Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, known as the “Spanish Taliban” and three other former Guantanamo detainees — a Moroccan, a Palestinian and a Libyan.

    Garzon said that documents declassified by the US administration and carried by US media “have revealed what was previously a suspicion: the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture and mistreatment of persons deprived of their freedom” that flouts international conventions.

    This points to “the possible existence of concerted actions by the US administration for the execution of a multitude of crimes of torture against persons deprived of their freedom in Guantanamo and other prisons including that of Bagram” in Afghanistan. . . .

    There’s a part of me that feels more secure with this being in the hands of this Spanish Judge, that such actions would be more honestly pursued, than anything we might do here in America, and, yet, of course, it is OUR responsibility to do what the law requires us to do.

    I worry, too, about the safety of any such Special Prosecutor(s) who may take on the task, and their ability to pursue the investigations without threats being made upon them, or members of their families, etc. from the “shadows,” thus, inhibiting them from doing a less than “adequate” or “thorough” job.  For that reason, if WE do pursue investigations, it should be on a transparent and public level. And such persons investigating should have all the protection afforded them, as would be afforded dignitaries.  I remember quite vividly that as the Valerie Plame exposure was identified and becoming known, on advice, the Wilsons made themselves well known, exposing themselves photographically, media-wise, etc.  That was a good maneuver, I think.  

  2.  Yes, Europe is pissed off.

  3. is now up, to create investigation committee.

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