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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spain judge opens investigation into Guantanamo torture allegations
Steve Czajkowski at 7:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday decided [writ, PDF, in Spanish] to initiate an investigation into torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] made by four former prisoners held at the facility. Garzon said he based his decision on statements from Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Lahcen Ikassrien, Jamiel Abdul Latiff Al Banna, and Omar Deghayes, who claim they were subject to various forms of physical and mental abuse [El Pais report, in Spanish] during their imprisonment. Garzon also said that recently released CIA interrogation memos [JURIST report] detailed what had been previously suspected, a plan which authorized the systematic torture and mistreatment of persons who were deprived the basic rights of detainees. According to Garzon, the alleged abuse violates the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [UN materials], and other international treaties. Additionally, Garzon said the investigation is authorized under Spain's concept of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder], which allows a Spanish court to pursue certain types of cases, such as torture, outside its national borders, but only when legal action has not already commenced [AFP report] within the other country involved.

The investigation is unrelated to Garzon's earlier request for Spanish prosecutors to examine the US lawyers [JURIST report] reportedly behind the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Garzon's request came after a criminal complaint [text, PDF, in Spanish] was filed [Publico report, in Spanish] in the Audiencia Nacional [official website] against six lawyers from the administration of former US president George W. Bush, including David Addington, John Yoo, and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales. Earlier this month Spanish prosecutors announced that they would not recommend trying any of the named defendants [JURIST report] because they had not committed acts of torture. Last week, Garzon was replaced [JURIST report] by Eloy Velasco after Garzon recommended that the provisional case of whether to pursue legal action be assigned to an investigating magistrate.

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