Five former Guantanamo detainees, also Spanish citizens, have claimed to be victims of torture during their stint at the high-security Cuban prison. A supreme Spanish court has pointed the finger at six former Bush administration officials – including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – of facilitating the violation of human rights law upon Spanish citizens. The criminal court is said to be focusing on whether the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay can be legally justified, the burden of proof resting on the United States’ officials’ shoulders.

Baltasar Garzon, the judge earning its fame for ordering the arrest of Augusto Pinochet, has been put in charge of the case. He’s already citing John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who firmly believed the President was not bound by the Geneva Convention and could thus overrule its decisions; Douglas Feith, the the former undersecretary of defense for policy; and Gonzales, for a “well-documented role” in controversial interrogation techniques (including rendition) and dubious, overriding and dangerous reading of the 1975 Convention Against Torture.  Spain is once again establishing itself as a leader in the defense of international human rights and shows a courageous and outstanding commitment to upholding international law, regardless of the political standing of its suspects, regardless of the political climate, regardless of the underlying ties that may affect its future leadership. Before being alleged terrorists and Guantanamo detainees, those five plaintiffs and first and foremost Spanish citizens to whom human and civil rights have been denied, without Spain being granted the smallest decisive right in the entire process. This case is based on national sovereignty in the name of freedom – something almost unheard of.

no more tapas for you, Gonzales.

no more tapas for you, Gonzales.

The New York Times is stressing the importance of the situation by implying that Judge Garzon is not only going to present his case – it may also lead to arrest warrants. Bringing former US public officials to trial in a European country could be a first, capable of paving the way towards a truly respectable and respected international criminal court, where international violations would not be poorly justified by the overheard and overused excuse of “protecting national interest”. Other officials named are other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo’s former supervisor at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney. Whether Cheney himself might be requested to testify is not known yet, even if his participation in the use of torture in Guantanamo and in Iraq has already been challenged by a Senate Committee on human rights. Spain is taking a drastic step forward from the United Kingdom’s claim that the United States were endangering the lives of several European citizens in Guantanamo Bay last February.

Considering Garzon’s track record in displacing the supposedly irremovable objects placed by the United States Justice Department in Latin America, here’s to hoping the fierce Spanish judge will be as successful in nailing the principles of international conventions into American public official’s heads.

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