April 29th, 2009
12:10 PM ET
5 years ago

Spanish judge orders Guantanamo torture probe

A Spanish judge Thursday ordered an investigation into harsh treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay under the Bush administration.
A Spanish judge Thursday ordered an investigation into harsh treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay under the Bush administration.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) – A Spanish judge Thursday ordered an investigation into harsh treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay under the Bush administration on suspicion
that there was "an authorized and systematic plan for torture," according to a court document.

The case involves four former Guantanamo prisoners - a Spaniard, a Moroccan, a Palestinian and a Lebanese - who testified before the judge, Baltasar Garzon, that they had been tortured while held at the U.S. detention camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Two of the four were acquitted in Spain of terrorism charges, while similar charges against two others were shelved, according to the 10-page court order from Judge Garzon on Thursday, viewed by CNN.

The judge wrote there is sufficient evidence to open an investigation, based on the testimony from the four, plus news media reports about newly-declassified U.S. government documents.

The declassified U.S. documents, he wrote, revealed "an authorized and systematic plan for torture and harsh treatment of people deprived of their freedom without any charges and without the most basic elemental rights for detainees, set forth and demanded by international treaties."

The alleged plan at Guantanamo and other prisons, including a detention facility at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, "acquire almost an official and therefore generate penal responsibility in the different structures of execution - command, design and authorization of this systematic plan of torture," the judge wrote.


Garzon wrote that he planned to formally request the declassified U.S. documents to incorporate them into the case.

Garzon's new case is separate from another potential investigation at the same National Court in Madrid, which could involve a probe into the actions of six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Garzon provisionally had that complaint - which alleges the six former officials sanctioned torture at Guantanamo. But the court has since assigned that case to a different judge, Eloy Velasco, who has yet to rule if the probe will continue or be shelved.

Spanish prosecutors have gone on record opposing the probe of the former Bush administration officials, saying that should be done, if at all, in the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration recently declassified documents relating to Guantanamo, has said he opposes prosecuting CIA operatives who may have conducted harsh interrogations at detention facility.

But Obama appeared to leave open the possibility that those who designed the legal framework for the techniques might come under closer scrutiny in the United States.

Garzon's latest case cites allegations of torture, while in U.S. custody, the following men:

– Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, a Spanish citizen captured in Pakistan in 2001, who was later sent to Guantanamo. He arrived in Spain in 2004 and was acquitted of terrorism charges by Spain's Supreme Court.

– Lhacen Ikassrin, a Moroccan who lived in Spain for 13 years. He was detained in Afghanistan in November 2001, sent to Guantanamo and delivered to
Spain in July 2005, where he was acquitted of terrorism charges by the National Court.

– Jamiel Abdul Latiff Al Banna, a Palestinian detained in Gambia in November 2002 by the United States military. He was sent to Guantanamo but was due to arrive in Britain in December 2007, prompting a Garzon arrest warrant.

– Omar Deghayes, a Lebanese detained in Pakistan in April 2002, eventually arriving in Guantanamo but who was due to arrive in Britain in December 2007, also prompting an arrest warrant from Garzon.

The judge is Spain's best-known investigating magistrate for international human rights abuses. He issued a precedent-setting arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 while Pinochet was in a London hospital.

Garzon, in the latest case, asks another judge at the National Court, Ismael Moreno, to submit documents about Moreno's investigation into CIA flights allegedly carrying prisoners to Guantanamo that may have stopped on Spanish soil.


Filed under: Bush administration • Guantanamo
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Retired US ARMY

    I dare anyone to call me soft, liberal, a lefty or any other name that seems so popular out there. All you need to understand is that we have a Consitution, and that we as a nation sign things called Treaties and Conventions, and that these are as binding as any Federal Law ever passed. If laws were violated then those that violated the laws should be held accountable in a court of law. You also need to understand it would appear that our laws apply to those in our custody, we don't have little no law zones that we can behave in any fashion we want. If international laws were violated and we can not police our own, then the international community should as with any rouge state take action to bring violators to justice. NO ONE is above the law. No Action taken for what ever reason, is above the law.

    You don't want an other nation investigating charges of torture, and other acts that violate international Treaties and laws, then get off your chair and demand that we investigate the matters and get to the bottom of it.

    April 29, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. Brett

    Sorry spainish people.... back off! your court has do nothing with america's soil.

    We should against spain for their famous "spainish virus" in 1920's... kill 20-30 millions people in wideworld! :)

    April 29, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. Lowell

    What I want to know is why a foreign judge is the one with the cajones big enough to put war criminals on trial instead of American judges.

    April 29, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Spain needs to look themselves, they are responsible for slaves and slave trade and have never aplogized. This is not to say I agree with torture but Spain needs to shut up and mind their own business.

    April 29, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. Peter

    If so many Republicans wish to stand up and argue a case for torture then perhaps the GOP should make torture a part of its official party platform. While we are at it the GOP can also make a decree that the US and its citizens are vastly superior to everyone else and hence we can do whatever we want. It seems that it is only right wing extremists left in the party now anyway....

    April 29, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    After the big train terror debacle in Spain, you'd think they would keep their nose in their own country!

    April 29, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Uncle Jimbo-Chicago

    Are we a Nation of Laws or not ?

    This does not mean a separate set of laws for the poor or working middle class, and a separate set of laws for the wealthy and politically connected.

    We are Not above the rest of the world. Remember the words – that all men are created equal.

    Whoever broke the rule of law, whether about torture, or our invasion of Iraq should be tried and sentenced accordingly, or our Constitution is from now on, irrelevant.

    April 29, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Rumsfeld

    Just because we lowered ourselves to the level of evil of our enemies doesn't make us guilty of anything. Besides, it wasn't "waterboarding," it was "restrained bathing."

    April 29, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. big papa

    Just WHY did GW Bush and Dick Cheney say we had to bring down Saddam again?

    ...did we not hear about torture and rape rooms?

    ...Myyyyy how easily you ignorant, inhumane torture mongers on the right forget...

    April 29, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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