Spanish judge Eloy Velasco on Friday set a March 1 deadline for the US government to indicate whether Guantanamo abuse allegations will be investigated by US lawyers before deciding whether to allow a controversial lawsuit against former Bush administration officials to move forward. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2009 [JURIST report], accuses high profile lawyers including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales [BBC profile], David Addington, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee and John Yoo [JURIST news archive] of inventing a legal cover for torture at Guantanamo [ABC report, in Spanish]. Judge Velasco provided one final month for the US to respond, noting that previous requests have gone unanswered [EFE report, in Spanish]. The judge also requested evidence that the three former Guantanamo inmates are Spanish citizens [Dow Jones report]. The case, although not the only Guantanamo-related lawsuit in international courts, may further heighten tensions between the US and Spain.
Spanish National Court judges have prosecuted foreign cases aggressively under Spanish laws on the exercise of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] amended [JURIST report] by Spain's parliament in November 2009. The law limits the use of universal jurisdiction to offenses committed by or against Spaniards, or where the perpetrators are in Spain. This lawsuit was originally brought before crusading judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who has been known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives]. In May, the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] voted unanimously to suspend Garzon [JURIST report] for abusing his power by opening an unrelated investigation into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder].