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Spain court turns over Guantanamo torture investigation to US

Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco announced Wednesday that the National Court would not investigate six Bush administration officials pursuant to torture claims from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], in response to a letter [text, PDF] from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. The letter assured Spain that the US is investigating the treatment of detainees and has already completed federal criminal prosecution for the detainee mistreatment. The DOJ urged Spanish courts to refer complaints of detainee mistreatment to the US for the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. Velasco subsequently agreed to discard three lawsuits filed by former inmates who claimed to be Spanish citizens. The Obama administration told the Spanish court that the US would not investigate any of the six former Bush administration officials for allowing the torture of detainees in US custody. In response to the DOJ's letter, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) [advocacy websites] issued a rebuttal [text, PDF], supporting Spain's pending criminal complaint against six US officials for alleged involvement in detainee abuse and inhumane treatment. The rebuttal stated:

The U.S. Submission does nothing to alter the conclusion that the criminal case against the so-called "Bush Six"; is properly before the Spanish court: it demonstrates that no competent jurisdiction is investigating or prosecuting the allegations in the complaint. The listed initiatives undertaken by the US government in various fora, while indicating some small measure of concern with the "mistreatment" or "abuse" of detainees and the legal advice provided in relation to the treatment of detainees, are ultimately unresponsive and inapplicable to the allegations raised in the complaint pending in Spain.
Velasco agreed to hand over the case to US courts [Dow Jones report] and pledged to submit information on the lawsuit to US authorities who will investigate the cases and decide which ones to pursue.

In February, the Spanish National Court agreed to continue investigating [JURIST report] allegations of a Moroccan man who claims that he was tortured while detained at Guantanamo Bay. Article 23.4 of the Ley Organica del Poder Judicial (LOPJ) [text, in Spanish] authorizes Spanish courts to hear certain types of international cases, but requires that the case have a "relevant connection" to Spain [Publico report, in Spanish], following a limitation placed on universal jurisdiction [JURIST report] in 2009. The court first opened the investigation in April 2009 [JURIST report], looking into torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay made by four former prisoners. The court based its decision on statements by the prisoners who claimed they were subject to various forms of physical and mental abuse during their imprisonment, as well as CIA interrogation memos [JURIST report] detailing a plan which allegedly authorized the systematic torture and mistreatment of persons who were deprived the basic rights of detainees. The alleged abuses violated the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [UN materials], and other international treaties, the court said.

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