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US war crimes again
October 19, 2005 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Looks like George W Bush's Hague Invasion Act might need amending to become a Madrid Invasion Act, following a Spanish court order for the arrest of three US soldiers in response to the "Palestine Hotel" incident. [newsfilter].
posted by wilful (20 comments total)

 
Well, that's pointless posturing. Unless the three soldiers accidentally take a vacation to Spain.
posted by smackfu at 6:36 PM on October 19, 2005


IANAL, particularly an EU one, but my understanding is that this arrest warrant would be binding on all EU countries. Which I guess would include US bases in Germany and the UK.
posted by wilful at 6:43 PM on October 19, 2005


although I didn't before know about the HIA, I am not surprised.

Now imagine how GW would react should someone from the Iraqi miliary tried the same stunt to free Saddam.

How do I make the rolleyes icon ?
posted by dawdle at 6:44 PM on October 19, 2005


every day I see more reason to cherish my canadian passport ( and our even keeled view of the world )
posted by dawdle at 6:45 PM on October 19, 2005


smackfu- a piece on NPR today had an interview with some legal expert guy who said that the court order didn't actually intend to result in an arrest, but rather was a way to get the attention of the U.S. The legal guy said that he expected that it would be successful, and it would lead to further investigation and towards a resolution of the difficulties between the U.S. and Spain that have arisen from this incident.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2005


Of course I didn't see the NPR interview, however I doubt that analysis because courts aren't quite so amenable to political influence as some might believe in other countries. It is more likely that based on spanish law that was the legal next step, driven by the family of the murdered Spanish journalist.
posted by wilful at 8:16 PM on October 19, 2005


Aren't there international bountyhunters that could deliver up the accused to Spain? Maybe people trained by Mossad?
posted by davy at 8:40 PM on October 19, 2005


wilful, I believe that US bases are considered US territory in the same way that embassies are.
posted by cali at 11:03 PM on October 19, 2005


From the description of the incident in the last link, I don't see why criminal charges would be justified. It sounds as though the soldiers believed they were firing on a spotter who was calling in rocket strikes on them.
posted by russilwvong at 12:36 AM on October 20, 2005


The export of American Values is proceeding well. Here we have a classic example of the "Somebody must be to blame" belief.

Reporters in a war zone get killed and people complain? WTF? How many thousands of Iraqi's are dead? Two thousand u.s. soldiers are dead. How many soldiers are back home missing limbs?

Do these people have any idea how hard it is for soldiers to keep from killing their own buddies by mistake?
posted by srboisvert at 1:19 AM on October 20, 2005


Yeah, all of Iraq was a well-known war zone at that time. Unless it was a pre-meditated hit, I would doubt the possibility of any court ruling against the soldiers. It's a silly case. I guess if Spain wants to make a point, it would be better served by making George W. a war criminal for starting an illegal war in the first place. But then again Spain was part of the coalition which means their last president was equally responsible?
posted by JJ86 at 2:06 AM on October 20, 2005


JJ86 writes "Yeah, all of Iraq was a well-known war zone at that time."

And the Palestine Hotel was the best-known location of foreign journalists in the whole country at the time.
posted by clevershark at 6:40 AM on October 20, 2005


But nobody (sane) is asserting that it was anything other than a very unfortunate but honest fuckup. Read the CPJ link.

To actually threaten to drag a few grunts into court over a simple error only shows that US fears that war-crimes courts would be used for this sort of silliness aren't completely unfounded, after all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 AM on October 20, 2005


Well, first of all, a primer in Spanish criminal law:

An investigating magistrate has a similar role to that of a grand jury in the US. He directs the investigation prior to any indictment, and eventually decides if there are grounds for one. The other thing is that an investigation can be started either by the public prosecutor, who depends from the attorney general, and therefore from the government, or by a private person. This case, for instance, has been driven by a private prosecution led by Couso's family. The attorney general has been resisting it since it started, and this both under the previous conservative government and the current socialists.

Now, Spanish investigating magistrates may be a bit blowhard at times, but they do have a duty to investigate. Thing is, the US authorities, in typical form, have been boneheaded at best and downright obstructive at worst. They haven't even bothered to reply to the investigating magistrate's requests to take witness statements from those soldiers. As far as they are concerned, they already closed the case. For the investigating magistrate, however, this is a case of a Spanish citizen killed under disputed circumstances, and he isn't even allowed to question the witnesses of a possible crime that he is obliged to investigate under Spanish law. Thus, he has "gone nuclear" with an international arrest warrant. Which, on the other hand, is a futile gesture as long as the soldiers (or, more accurately, former soldiers, as, curiously enough, they all seem to have left the armed forces in the meanwhile) don't leave US territory.

I must also add that this sort of thing creates really bad blood in the Spanish public opinion. Journalists are a notoriously close-knit bunch, and they all, right and left, disapprove of colleagues being blown apart by US troops. Especially since this wasn't a first time.

ROU_Xenophobe: But nobody (sane) is asserting that it was anything other than a very unfortunate but honest fuckup.

Have them testify, then. They haven't even been indicted, fer feck's sake. So much for "dragging them to court". What this case does show is just how US adherence to the ICC would go some way to allay the suspicions abroad that any crimes by the US authorities abroad will be whitewashed.
posted by Skeptic at 3:03 PM on October 20, 2005


Thanks for the clear explanation, Skeptic.
posted by russilwvong at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2005


Have them testify, then.

Yes. Surrendering yourself to the physical authority of the people who might or might not want to throw you in jail for a soldierly fuckup is really a good idea. Because everyone in jail everywhere in the world really is guilty of the crimes for which they were accused, and no foreigners have ever been chucked in prison to appease an angry local population.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:46 PM on October 20, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe: Surrendering yourself to the physical authority

I said testify. What part of it don't you understand? There are international arrangements to take witness statements in other countries. This was all what the Spanish investigating magistrate originally wanted: a witness statement from the soldiers taken before a US court. They wouldn't have had to surrender themselves to any physical authority, they wouldn't even have had to leave their cities. But because the US authorities didn't even react to his demand, he has been forced to do as he would have done with any other coy suspect.

And if you don't trust our courts, I don't see why we should trust your soldiers! Because everyone killed in a war zone everywhere in the world really was an enemy combatant or else the victim of an honest fuckup, and no foreigners have been even killed by soldiers in a blood frenzy.
posted by Skeptic at 11:41 PM on October 20, 2005


I said testify. What part of it don't you understand? There are international arrangements to take witness statements in other countries.

Fair enough; I thought you wanted them sitting in the accusing court. Is all you want a sworn affidavit?

It still seems rather silly given that all the relevant testimony they could give seems to be available through people who were recording the radio traffic; it's not like there's any realistic dispute about what happened when, or much room to argue for any malicious motive.

And if you don't trust our courts

You misread. I don't trust anyone's courts. At least, I don't trust anyone's criminal justice system with my own personal ass, and I think nobody else should either.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:30 AM on October 21, 2005


Is all you want a sworn affidavit?

It's all the Spanish investigating magistrate originally wanted. Since, however, the Pentagon and the Department of Justice chose stonewalling tactics (as usual), this has escalated. At the end, cooler heads will prevail and the whole affair will be buried, of course, but it won't have served the reputation of the US abroad, or that of the Spanish justice system at home, for that matter.

It still seems rather silly given that all the relevant testimony they could give seems to be available through people who were recording the radio traffic

And who would be those people? Firstly, I don't think there may have been all that many people monitoring radio traffic in the middle of the fall of Baghdad. Secondly, I am under the impression that US Army armoured units have reasonably secure communications.

it's not like there's any realistic dispute about what happened when, or much room to argue for any malicious motive.

I'm not much of one for conspiracy theories, but it is quite well established that the Pentagon wasn't exactly happy about non-embedded journalists and did everything it could to discourage them to stay in Baghdad. And even without actually directing the troops to attack them, they could have "forgotten" to warn them that the entire international press corps was in the Hotel Palestine. I understand this is one of the main questions the Spanish investigating magistrate had for the soldiers.

As for malicious motives, hmmm, I really don't want to believe in that, but it is not altogether paranoid of, say, Al-Jazeera to suspect such motives when both their offices in Kabul and Baghdad were blown up by US military forces...I personally am an optimist who tends to put far to much faith in human goodness, but I don't think it would hurt the US to show a bit more openness (never mind a touch of compassion for the victims) when it comes to investigating such matters.

At least, I don't trust anyone's criminal justice system with my own personal ass, and I think nobody else should either.

Well, it's a pity you can't. The general complaint about the Spanish criminal justice system, however, is on the contrary that it is far too lenient and protects the accused far too strongly. Which is why the American stonewalling is so difficult to understand (and indeed, quite damning) from the Spanish point of view...
posted by Skeptic at 6:05 PM on October 21, 2005


Some real fine reporting from the "committee to Protect Journalists"! They say that a Heat (High Explosive Anti Tank) round isn't an armor piercing shell and is antipersonnel. I suppose they are quoting Tomlinson but any chowder head who can use google can find out he's wrong.
posted by Megafly at 6:24 PM on October 21, 2005


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