Rights groups ask Spain court to open probe into Bush-era 'torture'

[JURIST] The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) [advocacy websites] filed a joint expert opinion [text, PDF] Tuesday urging a Spanish court to open an investigation into six former Bush administration officials for their roles in the torture [JURIST news archive] of detainees. The complaint against the officials, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who authored memos [JURIST news archive] authorizing so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, was originally filed [JURIST report] in March 2009. The groups urged Judge Eloy Velasco to open the investigation because the US government has failed to do so. The groups claim [press release] that recent cables published by Wikileaks demonstrate that the Obama administration has "acted to undermine the legal process through political means and disregarded the independence of the Spanish judiciary." According to the filing:

The United States must not be permitted to continue to stall the course of justice, whether domestically or in Spain. The Geneva Conventions and the Torture Statute both mandate that the authors of violations contained therein be brought to justice and subjected to criminal prosecutions. This Court has issued Letters Rogatory pursuant to Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters to ascertain whether the United States is fulfilling its obligations under those treaties through pending criminal investigations in an effort to ensure that it is exercising its jurisdiction efficiently and appropriately. However, with the passage of 19 months and after three formal requests, we respectfully submit that the United States has been afforded more than ample opportunity to make their views known to the Court. It is evident that no investigations or prosecution will be conducted in the United States into the acts contained in the complaint. Rather, a culture of impunity exists in the United States. Without accountability, not only will the authors of the "torture program" profit from (rather than be punished by) confessing their acts, but the acts will likely be repeated.
The other officials named in the complaint are David Addington, former counsel to, and chief of staff for, former vice president Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, former under secretary of defense for policy, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales and former Defense Department general counsel William Haynes.

In February, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] overruled [JURIST report] the findings of a report [text, PDF] concluding that Bybee and Yoo committed professional misconduct when they wrote the memos. Instead, the DOJ said that they were only guilty of "poor judgment" in writing the memos. An internal ethics investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website] concluded that Yoo had committed "intentional professional misconduct when he violated his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective and candid legal advice." The report also found that Bybee had committed professional misconduct when he acted in "reckless disregard" of his duty to exercise independent legal advice. However, David Margolis, an associate deputy attorney general, released a separate memo [text, PDF] overruling the OPR's report, finding its analysis was flawed because it did not have a clear definition of what constitutes professional misconduct.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.