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Kathy Shaidle

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April 7, 2009 - 12:35 am
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It isn’t quite true these days that, to cite that over-quoted Monty Python sketch, “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Case in point: Phillipe Sands, a British lawyer with Cherie Blair’s London firm. Last year, he published a book claiming that when the Bush administration came to an end, six of the president’s top-level advisors would face charges in international court.

Sure enough, now Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon wants to charge those six senior policy advisors with “giving legal cover” to alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a document released on March 29, Garzon names former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales; William J. Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who, according to the New York Times, “wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions”; Jay S. Bybee, Mr. Yoo’s former boss at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; David S. Addington, chief of staff and legal advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney; and former under secretary of defense Douglas J. Feith. Garzon charges that the men advised President Bush to ignore Geneva Conventions protocols regarding prisoner interrogation.

Based on the doctrine of “universal justice,” Spanish courts enjoy jurisdiction beyond national borders in cases involving alleged torture and war crimes. Garzon says he is filing this case in the name of five Spanish citizens, former prisoners who claim they were tortured at Gitmo.

Garzon gained international notoriety when he filed similar international indictments against onetime Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, as well as Osama bin Laden. The judge is also currently under investigation himself, for failing “to report that he would be paid [approximately $200,000] during a U.S. sabbatical [at New York University] while drawing his salary in Madrid.” Neither is he universally admired among the Left: Noam Chomsky and Salman Rushdie condemned the judge for shutting down the world’s last Basque language newspaper in 2003, due to its supposed, but never proven, ties to ETA terrorists.

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