Spain, the country which made a concerted effort to extradite former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations, has now set its sights on the Bush administration:
Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.
The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.
“The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people,” Boyé told the Observer. “This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead.”
The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.
Finally someone decides to hold these people to account. But it puts Barack Obama in a very interesting and quite perilous situation (one entirely of his own making). Until now, despite considerable pressure to do otherwise, he’s chosen a path of realigning the United States back towards human rights norms as a means of dealing with the crimes of the Bush administration. That it both authorised torture and was responsible for it, not to mention for extraordinary rendition and the outrage of Guantánamo Bay, is beyond much doubt. but he’s now in the position of having either to repudiate Spain itself – a NATO ally – for doing what he would do in their position, or launching some form of investigation or action against Bush administration officials responsible for this mess after all. Either way lies danger for him – Spain on the other hand deserves kudos aplenty. They haven’t a hope of actually getting to try these people, but they’re doing everything in their (considerable) power anyway.