Rights groups urge Spain to probe Guantanamo boss

7th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Human rights groups said Friday they have asked a Spanish judge to subpoena the former US commander of the Guantanamo detention camp to explain his alleged role in the torture of detainees.

The US-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights asked a judge probing alleged torture at the US naval base in Cuba to question Major General Geoffrey Miller, who ran the centre from November 2002 until April 2004.

"Miller implemented techniques designed to 'soften up' detainees, including sleep deprivation, extended isolation, forcing detainees to stand or crouch in 'stress positions,' stripping detainees and exposure to extremes of heat and cold," the complaint alleged.

Then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld "rescinded permission for the more controversial techniques on 15 January 2003, although under MG Miller's command at Guantanamo, these techniques continued to be used in certain cases."

It said the officer was also sent to Iraq in 2003 "to conduct strategic interrogation and intelligence development and detention operations...

"It was shortly after this visit by MG Miller that the most serious abuses and torture at (Iraq's) Abu Ghraib (prison) occurred."

It charged Miller "bears individual criminal responsibility for the war crimes and acts of torture inflicted on detainees in US custody at Guantanamo and in Iraq."

In April 2009, Spain's top investigating judge Baltasar Garzon decided to open a probe into an alleged "systematic programme" of torture at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp, following accusations by four former prisoners, one of whom holds Spanish citizenship.

After Garzon was suspended last year for alleged abuse of power, the case was assigned to another judge.

The CCR said it had also filed a legal opinion backing the probe of six former US officials over allegations "they gave legal cover for torture at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba."

In 2009, Spain's attorney general opposed the pursuance of that case.

In 2005 Spain declared itself competent to investigate any crime committed abroad under the principle of "universal jurisdiction", but after diplomatic problems the scope of the inquiries was reduced in 2009.

Spanish courts can now deal only with cases that have a clear link with Spain, or cases that are not being investigated in countries where the offences are alleged to have been committed.

The US detention camp in Cuba was set up to hold foreigners captured after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out Al-Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 against the United States.

In one of his first acts in office in 2009, US President Barack Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison and the United States has started to slowly empty it of detainees.

But the White House admitted last month it would be unable to close the camp in the near future.

© 2011 AFP

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