Sunday, March 29, 2009
While ignoring the number one and number two players, this action by Spain is a positive step toward bringing criminal proceedings against high ranking officials in the Bush administration for the use of illegal use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay.
Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding to proceed.
The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.
The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.
Obama administration officials have confirmed that they believe torture was committed by American interrogators. The president has not ruled out a criminal inquiry, but inexplicably signaled he is reluctant to do so for political reasons.
“Obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices, and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” Obama said in January. “But my orientation’s going to be to move forward.”
I appreciate President Obama is focused on the future but, he’s forgetting an important lesson: those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.