PHR Joins Amicus Brief in Spanish Court to Hold US Officials Accountable for Torture

On Sept. 25, PHR joined a group of international human rights experts and organizations in filing an amicus brief on an appeal before the Spanish Supreme Court. The case seeks to hold accountable six senior legal advisers in the Bush administration who allegedly facilitated the torture and abuse of people detained at Guantánamo and other detention sites overseas. The criminal complaint was first filed in 2009 by a Spanish prosecutor in a trial court in Spain against “The Bush Six”: David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, and John Yoo.

In filing the “friend of the court” brief, PHR joined prominent individuals such as former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture Manfred Nowak (2004-2010) and Theo van Boven (2001-2004); Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the US military commissions at Guantánamo Bay; and Major General Antonio M. Taguba, as well as organizations such as the International Commission of Jurists, and Reprieve. The brief relies on “universal jurisdiction,” a principle in international law that allows any country to try cases involving war crimes or other grave crimes, including torture, regardless of where they are alleged to have occurred.

Last year, two lower courts in Spain dismissed the complaint, relying on the United States’ submission that it was investigating allegations of torture at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and other sites.

This case and the amicus brief are particularly important in the wake of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Aug. 30 decision to close the Department of Justice investigation into the deaths of two prisoners tortured in US custody. With Holder’s announcement, on the grounds that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” the US is now unlikely to ever hold accountable those responsible for and involved in the torture of US detainees. While there may never be criminal accountability, America must still come to terms with the fact that scores of detainees have suffered human rights violations over the last 10 years at the hands of government in the name of “national security.” Only then might the US begin to restore its now-tarnished reputation for championing human rights at home and across the globe.

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