Global Policy Forum

Spain Court Allows Guantanamo Torture Investigation to Continue

The Spanish National Court has handed down a decision allowing an investigation of US officials for alleged torture of Guantanamo detainees. This will be the first investigation of torture and abuse of prisoners in US detention facilities and could implicate high ranking officials in the George W. Bush administration. In December 2010, WikiLeaks cables revealed the Obama administration had put pressure on Spain to drop the case. The willingness of signatories to the Convention Against Torture, such as Spain, to pursue perpetrators of torture is essential to bring perpetrators to justice.

By Maureen Cosgrove

February 26, 2011

The Spanish National Court on Friday agreed to continue investigating 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) authorizes Spanish courts to hear certain types of international cases, but requires that the case have a "relevant connection" to Spain, following a limitation placed on universal jurisdiction  in 2009. The court said it was competent to take the case because the complainant, Lahcen Ikassrien, who was held at Guantanamo from 2001 to 2005, had been a Spanish resident for 13 years. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) endorsed the court's decision to continue the investigation:

This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the "authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill treatment" by U.S. officials at Guantanamo. Geoffrey Miller, the former commanding officer at Guantanamo, has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command. Since the U.S. government has not only failed to investigate the illegal actions of its own officials and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, also sought to interfere in the Spanish judicial process and stop the case from proceeding, this will be the first real investigation of the U.S. torture program.

Judge Pablo Ruz, who replaced the controversial judge Baltasar Garzon, will continue overseeing the proceedings.

The court first opened the investigation in April 2009, looking into torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay made by four former prisoners, including Ikassrien. 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 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, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other international treaties, the court said. In July 2005, US officials at Guantanamo Bay extradited Ikassrien to Spain to answer charges that he assisted al-Qaeda cell leader Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas in planning the 9/11 terror attacks.


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