Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court's Investigations into Bush Administrations Torture Program

For Immediate Release

Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court's Investigations into Bush Administrations Torture Program

WASHINGTON - Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed
a motion with  Spain's national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to
intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation
currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United
States during the Bush Administration.  Initiated in April of 2009 by
Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of
four former Guantánamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen,
Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghaye, each with strong ties to Spain.
The investigation will examine what Judge Garzón described as "an
approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment" and thus can
encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black
sites around the world.  Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien
had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years. 

CCR
has led the legal battle over Guantanamo and has represented plaintiffs who
have been subjected to every facet of the United States' torture program,
from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary
rendition and CIA ghost detention. CCR has represented former detainees in U.S.
federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings and civil actions, seeking habeas
relief, injunctions or damages. It bases its motion to intervene on vast
experience working on these issues on behalf of its clients

"For
eight long years we have fought to redress the brutal, inhumane and illegal
acts perpetrated against our clients but have been blocked at every turn by
both the Bush and Obama administrations," said CCR President Michael
Ratner
, who filed the first habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of a
Guantanamo detainee in 2002. "We come to Spain in pursuit of nothing less
than justice, which, sadly, is not available in the United States."

CCR
staff attorney and lead counsel in the action, Katherine Gallagher,
added: "The purpose of the intervention is multi-fold: to pursue justice
and accountability for egregious international law violations in a forum that
is willing to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and to press the message
that no one is above the law and that impunity cannot stand, even if the U.S.
is unwilling to prosecute the crimes."

Judge
Garzón's investigation is parallel to a separate case in which a fellow
magistrate, Judge Eloy Velasco, must decide whether the National Court can
pursue a criminal investigation against six senior U.S. officials, including
attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, for
allegedly approving the use of torture.  Separately CCR, jointly with the
Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), is
filing an expert opinion today with Judge Velasco urging him to retain
jurisdiction over the investigation due to the failure of the United States to
conduct independent, thorough or impartial investigations into the torture
program and the ongoing failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those
responsible for the torture program.  The opinion states:

"the
U.S. has utterly failed in its obligations to initiate an effective
investigation or prosecution against the specific defendants in this case or on
behalf of the named plaintiffs or other victims of the U.S. interrogation,
detention and torture policies. This unfortunately remains the case under the
Obama Administration.  Furthermore, both the Obama and Bush
Administrations have actively sought to block all efforts on behalf of victims
of the detention, interrogation and torture policies from having their day in
court, when in the context of habeas proceedings or civil actions. Spain,
therefore, can and indeed, must, exercise its jurisdiction over the named
defendants for the violations alleged in this case."

The
expert opinion also examines the scope of universal jurisdiction, and
determines that because of the nature of the crimes alleged and Spain's
obligations as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and Convention Against
Torture, in particular, it should retain jurisdiction over this case.

In
his decision opening the investigation, Judge Garzón called the torture program
"an authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on
persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic
rights of any detainee, set out and required by applicable international
conventions..." On January 27, 2010, Judge Garzón
issued a decision in which he ruled that Spain had jurisdiction and the
investigation into complaints filed could proceed. Judge Garzón based this
finding in part on the Spanish citizenship and residency in Spain of two of the
victims, and also cited the previous relationship between the victims and Spain
due to the request for their extradition issued by Spain.  Judge Garzón
also found that opening an investigation was proper given the nature of the
crimes - including torture - under universal jurisdiction
principles, despite the amendment to the Spanish law in November 2009. His
decision also takes note of the Letters Rogatory that were sent to the United
States and United Kingdom on May 15, 2009, inquiring about possible investigations
into these cases as well as into the possibility that the victims could
initiate criminal proceedings themselves. Neither country responded.

The
Center for Constitutional Rights will be represented in these proceedings by
Spanish lawyers, including Gonzalo Boye of Boye-Elbal y Asociados.

For
more information on the investigations of U.S. torture pending in Spain, see: www.ccrjustice.org/spain-us-torture-case.

For
more information on CCR's work to hold U.S. officials accountable using
universal jurisdiction, see: http://www.ccrjustice.org/case-against-rumsfeld

CCR
has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years -
sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first
attorney to meet with a former CIA "ghost detainee" there. CCR has
been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers
across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that
nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been
working to resettle the approximately 50 men who remain at Guantánamo because
they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and
torture.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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