A Spanish judge on Friday re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, one day after a British authorities launched a probe into CIA renditions to Libya.
The twin developments demonstrated that while the Obama administration has stuck to its promise not to investigate whether Bush administration officials acted illegally by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques, other countries are still interested in determining whether Bush-era anti-terror practices violated international law.
In Madrid, Judge Pablo Rafael Ruz Gutierrez handed down a 19-page decision Friday in which he said he would seek additional information medical data, a translation of a Human Rights Watch report, elaboration on material made public by WikiLeaks, and testimony from three senior U.S. military officers who served at Guantánamo in the case of four released Guantánamo captives who allege they were humiliated and subjected to torture while in U.S. custody.
Ruz said, however, that it would be premature to notify the former U.S. officials named in the former detainees complaint that they are under investigation. Those officials include former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and two former Guantánamo commanders, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert and retired Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.
Ruz said the complaint had yet to tie any of them to specific acts. He said he would ask Spanish prosecutors to determine who in the United States should be informed of the probe so that they could offer exculpatory evidence.
In London, the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard said Thursday that they would investigate allegations of British involvement in the Bush-era extraordinary rendition program, specifically whether British intelligence had a hand in delivering two Libyan opponents of Col. Moammar Gadhafi to Libyan jails, where they were tortured by Gadhafis secret police.
Scotland Yard agreed to go forward on that probe while dropping another involving the interrogation in Morocco of former Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed. British human rights activists had sought to hold British intelligence responsible for Mohameds treatment in Morocco he called it torture, and the investigators said there was no reason to doubt his account. But they found it is not possible to bring criminal charges against an identifiable individual.
International human rights groups have turned to the European courts after losing successive efforts to bring cases in U.S. courts, which typically invoked the states secret doctrine to get lawsuits dismissed not on the merits but as a national security necessity.
In the globalized world in which we live, justice processes are going to go forward, said James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group founded by investor George Soros.
These crimes are universal crimes and its very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.
Goldston said international investigations were necessary because the United States has heeded President Barack Obamas call to look forward, not back.