Was the Killing of Osama Bin Laden Legal? Holding Torturers
Accountable (two articles - long)
1. Was the Killing of Osama Bin Laden Legal? (Joshua Holland
2. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón on Holding Torturers
Accountable, Why He Opposes the Killing of Osama bin Laden (Democracy Now)
Was the Killing of Osama Bin Laden Legal?
We don't know whether the administration ordered the
al Qaeda leader killed, but that hasn't stopped an
"What's clear is that people on both sides of the
debate have had an emotional reaction to bin Laden's
death. They're embracing as fact whatever claims
support their reactions, and selecting only those
sources of law that lend credence to their
previously held assumptions."
By Joshua Holland
Posted on May 11, 2011
A notably vitriolic debate has broken out in the wake of the
killing of Osama bin Laden. Prominent progressives including
Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald have all
questioned whether the al Qaeda leader could have been taken
alive, and, if the order was given to kill him, whether that
would be a legal action. They have, in turn, been pilloried
to varying degrees by most of the liberal establishment.
It's a debate that has generated lots of heat but yielded
little light on the subject - an almost religious dispute
between people who have formed unyielding views based
largely on their own emotional responses to the raid.
The discussion has been marked by two fundamental flaws.
First, we don't know precisely what occurred in the final
moments of Osama bin Laden's life in that compound, and the
details are crucially important - absolutely necessary, in
fact - for determining the legality of the raid.
Second, there's been a lot of cross-talk because what we
consider to be "legal" arises from various sources of law,
and we've been treated to a mish-mash of assertions about
the raid drawing on various aspects of that canon without
much attention to how they overlap, and in some cases,
What Do We Actually Know?
All other considerations aside, if Osama bin Laden attempted
to surrender and was shot down, then it is an open-and-shut
case: even in war, protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions
prohibits the killing of anyone who is hors de combat (out
of the fight), attempting to surrender. Similarly, a strong
argument can be made that the U.S. was acting within the law
in apprehending the al Qaeda founder, and if bin Laden had
resisted that assault force in any way, his killing would
have been an equally clear case of self-defense.
According to the administration's account, the SEAL team
encountered no resistance once inside the building where bin
Laden was located. There, they encountered a 64- year-old
suffering from renal failure, clad in pajamas, and killed
The administration says that bin Laden either lunged for a
weapon or retreated into a bedroom. Bin Laden's daughter
claims he was taken alive and then executed. Neither claim
is backed by any hard evidence, and both the administration
and survivors of the raid have a vested interest in
portraying events in a certain light. In the end, a small
number of Navy SEALs, bin Laden's youngest wife, now in
Pakistani custody, and a handful of senior military and
administration officials know precisely what transpired.
It is likely that historians, rather than journalists, will
provide the information necessary to definitively judge this
question. Classified information is eventually declassified,
people retire and recount their exploits, and eventually,
even the most sensitive state secrets are laid bare. But so
far, accepting that a given narrative is indisputably true
is an act of faith, not reason.
That hasn't stopped people from confidently drawing
conclusions based on what they believe happened in
Abbottabad. So, legal scholar Marjorie Cohn wrote of the
"targeted assassination" of Osama bin Laden, based on the
assumption that those SEALs were ordered to kill him on
Targeted assassinations violate well-established principles
of international law. Also called political assassinations,
they are extrajudicial executions. These are unlawful and
deliberate killings carried out by order of, or with the
acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial
Cohn has no idea that bin Laden didn't go for a weapon when
confronted by those special forces operators, but writes as
if that is an established fact.
Similarly, the American Prospect's Adam Serwer penned a
piece (responding to a post by Salon's Glenn Greenwald)
titled, "Killing Osama bin Laden Was Legal," in which he
cites international and domestic law to argue that it was a
slam-dunk case. But his argument falls apart on one key
sentence: "Killing bin Laden was legal based on what we know
now." But we don't know anything now; a more accurate
statement would be that it was legal "based on what we've
What Do You Mean by Legal?
The other major problem with the debate is that people are
throwing around assertions about what is and isn't legal
without reference to the framework on which they're relying.
Depending on which source of law one relies on, it's easy to
come to dramatically different conclusions.
As an American and a New Yorker who grew up in the shadow of
the World Trade Center, I am, despite some qualms, quite
pleased that the U.S. was able to finally get bin Laden.
That's the mainstream view; 80 percent of the American
public has no problem with shooting bin Laden in the face.
Whether they know it or not, they are applying natural law
to this question. Wikipedia defines it as "the use of reason
to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral
behavior. The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive
law (meaning 'man-made law'....) of a given political
community, society, or nation- state...."
Those who claim that killing bin Laden was indisputably
legal would be better served relying on natural law to make
their case. It is difficult to argue that it was not
justified on those terms. Unless you believe Osama bin Laden
had nothing to do with dastardly acts of terror - and that's
not limited to those perpetrated on September 11, 2001 -
then he clearly "had it coming." The righteousness of the
killing perceived by the overwhelming number of Americans is
not wrong, but it may not be justified by positive law - the
laws of nation-states.
As far as domestic laws go, the raid - and the possible
assassination of bin Laden - also appear to be legal. But
here again, it is not an open-and-shut case.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) gives
the president wide authority to pursue terrorists associated
with Al Qaeda to the far ends of the earth.
It gives the executive branch power to "use all necessary
and appropriate force against those nations, organizations,
or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or
aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11,
2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to
prevent any future acts of international terrorism against
the United States by such nations, organizations or
But AUMF doesn't end the debate. It authorizes "appropriate"
force, and more importantly, the Supreme Court has pushed
back, to a limited degree, on the blanket powers it confers.
In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the court denied the Bush
administration's assertion that AUMF allowed the president
to detain U.S. citizens without due process.
Whether it in fact allows the assassination of foreign
nationals residing in allied territory hasn't been tested in
a court of law. Executive order #12333, signed by Ronald
Reagan in 1981, states that "No person employed by or acting
on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in,
or conspire to engage in, assassination," but doesn't define
the term "assassination."
Noam Chomsky wrote that "it's increasingly clear that the
operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating
elementary norms of international law. There appears to have
been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as
presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing
virtually no opposition-except, they claim, from his wife,
who lunged toward them. In societies that profess some
respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to
Adam Serwer took to Twitter to mock Chomsky, claiming the
phrase, "'established norms of international law'... is word
salad for 'I have no argument'." But that's a
misunderstanding of international law. There is no global
government passing a discrete, enforceable civil code -
international law consists of commonly accepted norms of
international behavior and a hodgepodge of treaties. There
are limited institutions enforcing it, and then under
Not all of those sources of international law carry the same
weight. Serwer puts a lot of emphasis on "U.N. Resolution
1368, passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, [which]
explicitly supports 'all necessary steps to respond to the
terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001'," but UN resolutions
do not in any way exempt a nation state from its treaty
obligations. A UN security council resolution cannot be
taken as an authorization to ignore the Geneva conventions,
for example; clearly, "all necessary means" doesn't include
genocide or crimes against humanity.
Ultimately, the nebulous nature of international law lends a
lot of noise to the debate. Chomsky and Serwer are simply
making arguments on very different terms.
Where International and Domestic Law Overlap
According to the United States Constitution, a treaty, once
ratified by Congress, is second only to the Constitution
itself in the hierarchy of the law. Congress can withdraw
from a treaty, but failing that, it cannot pass simple
legislation overriding our treaty commitments.
That's the law of the land, and it is an important point. In
any instance where AUMF conflicts with those treaties -
including the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions and
the UN charter - our treaty commitments prevail.
As I mentioned above, protocol 1 of the Geneva convention
prohibits the use of force against individuals who are "out
of the fight," regardless of whether AUMF authorized such an
action. The Hague Convention states that "the right of
belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not
unlimited," and makes it illegal for states "to declare that
no quarter will be given," or to "kill or wound an enemy
who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of
defence, has surrendered." Parties to the convention are
also prohibited from declaring, "abolished, suspended, or
inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the
nationals of the hostile party."
Some have claimed that ordering bin Laden killed - again, a
fact that hasn't been established - would be legal under
Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which grants
states broad leeway to act in self-defense. The problem with
that assertion is that the UN Charter is a treaty governing
the actions of nation-states, and al Qaeda is a non-state
entity; the assault took place not in Afghanistan, but in
Pakistan. Article 2 says that member states, "shall refrain
in their international relations from the threat or use of
force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any state."
This is where things get shaky: Article 2, section 7, leaves
some wiggle room, stating, "nothing contained in the present
Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in
matters which are essentially within the domestic
jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to
submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter;
but this principle shall not prejudice the application of
enforcement measures" outlined in Article 51.
A common argument is that Pakistan proved unwilling or
unable to apprehend bin Laden, having "sheltered" him for
all these years. There are three problems with that claim.
First, it hasn't been established as fact. It is widely
assumed (by this writer as well) that the Pakistani
government knew bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, but it
is not uncommon for wanted fugitives to evade capture.
Second, al Qaeda big-wigs including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Musaad Aruchi, Ahmed Khalfan
Ghailani and Abu Faraj al- Libi were all captured in
Pakistan, by Pakistani forces, using intelligence and law
enforcement developed in partnership with the U.S. Finally,
the principle of state sovereignty outlined in the UN
charter does not come with a caveat reading, "unless you
don't trust a government."
The Laws of War
This is where things get especially murky, and notably
subjective. It is obviously the case that the language of
war has been used to frame the fight against international
terrorism - it's been called a "war on terror" after all.
And many commenters have drawn parallels between ordering
bin Laden killed and the targeting of Japanese Admiral
Yamamoto's plane during World War II.
But war is a conflict between nation-states, and there is
significant debate about whether this war is a legal or
rhetorical one. We have also declared a "war on drugs," and
a "war on poverty," but nobody seriously maintains that
those labels give the government the right to employ the
laws of warfare in executing those campaigns.
Yamamoto was the commander of hostile forces, but it's
unclear whether Osama bin Laden retained any operational
control over al Qaeda fighters at the time of his death. It
would not have been legal for the U.S. to kill Yamamoto
after his retirement.
We don't necessarily need to be at war, however, for the
killing to pass muster. In 1989, Defense Department lawyers
issued a memo on the use of force against individuals,
concluding that the "overt use of military force against
legitimate targets in time of war, or against similar
targets in time of peace where such individuals or groups
pose an immediate threat to United States citizens or the
national security of the United States, as determined by
competent authority, does not constitute assassination or
conspiracy to engage in assassination, and would not be
prohibited by the proscription in EO 12333 or by
But this assumes that bin Laden posed "an immediate threat"
to the U.S., another fact that hasn't been established. It
has long been believed that bin Laden, once in hiding,
served as a figurehead rather than an active commander of
hostile forces. Officials are now disputing that claim based
on intelligence gathered at bin Laden's compound. Whether or
not that's true is another important question.
So, what does this all mean? If the president did, in fact,
order bin Laden killed, was it legal? According to natural
law, yes. Otherwise, it's a question without a clear-cut
answer - it requires a full and reliable set of facts. The
devil is certainly in the details.
What's clear is that people on both sides of the debate have
had an emotional reaction to bin Laden's death. They're
embracing as fact whatever claims support their reactions,
and selecting only those sources of law that lend credence
to their previously held assumptions.
[Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.
He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy
(and Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know
About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America). Drop him an email
<[log in to unmask]> or follow him on Twitter.
c 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón on Holding Torturers
Accountable, Why He Opposes the Killing of Osama bin Laden,
and His Threatened Ouster from the Bench
May 12, 2011
Guest: Baltasar Garzón, Spanish judge who has indicted
Augusto Pinochet, Osama bin Laden, Bush administration
officials and many others on human rights grounds. He will
receive the first Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives/Puffin
Award for Human Rights Activism on May 14 at a ceremony in
New York City. [for more information on May 14 award, go to:
JUAN GONZALEZ: We're joined now by the Spanish judge
Baltasar Garzón, perhaps one of the world's most famous
judges. Citing the doctrine of universal jurisdiction,
Garzón has used the Spanish courts to investigate cases of
torture, war crimes and other offenses around the world.
In 1998, he ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator
Augusto Pinochet, a move that had led to Pinochet's arrest
and detention in Britain for 18 months.
In 2003, Garzón indicted Osama bin Laden and dozens of other
members of al-Qaeda. The indictment led to Europe's biggest
trial of alleged al-Qaeda operatives. Eighteen were
eventually found guilty.
Garzón also led the case against Argentine ex-naval officer
Adolfo Scilingo for crimes committed during Argentina's
Dirty War. Scilingo is now serving a 640-year sentence.
Garzón attempted to indict six high-ranking members of the
Bush administration, including former Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales, for their role in authorizing torture at
Guantanamo and overseas. The case was eventually dropped. We
now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, that the Bush administration
privately pressured the Spanish government to drop the
AMY GOODMAN: While Judge Garzón has long been one of the
world's most feared judges, he is now facing his own legal
battle. Thirteen months ago, he was indicted for exceeding
his authority for launching an investigation into the
disappearance of more than 100,000 Spanish civilians at the
hands of supporters of General Francisco Franco during the
Spanish Civil War. Garzón was suspended as a judge in May
2010 and is facing three separate trials.
The attack on Garzón has been widely criticized by human
rights defenders. Lotte Leicht of Human Rights Watch said,
quote, "Garzón sought justice for victims of human rights
abuses abroad and now he's being punished for trying to do
the same at home. The decision leaves Spain and Europe open
to the charge of double standard."
Judge Baltasar Garzón is here in New York this week to
receive the first Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives/Puffin
Foundation Award for Human Rights Activism. He flew in from
Spain last night, joins us in the studio today.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: Good Morning. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: And thank you to Tony Geist for translating.
Judge Garzón, let's start with the latest news: the
assassination of Osama bin Laden. You have condemned this.
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] Any person who leads a
terrorist organization like al-Qaeda is obviously a target.
Under the rule of law, justice should be sought by legal
means. According to the information we have, he could well
have been arrested and brought to trial for his crimes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet he was assassinated. Talk about the example
you believe this sets.
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] According to
international law, the murder or the assassination of bin
Laden was not the appropriate solution. Clearly, from the
information we have, it's an undefined situation, given the
state of conflict between the United States and al-Qaeda.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I wanted to ask you about the case,
particular case, that you have been now indicted for,
specifically overreaching your authority, supposedly, in
terms of the investigation into the civilian deaths under
the Franco regime. You prosecuted similar cases, where
amnesties had been declared, in Argentina and Chile, and
your government had no problem with that. But now, when you
challenge the amnesty that was supposedly granted to the
perpetrators of the Franco atrocities, suddenly the
government has problems with your methods?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: Yeah. [translated] This is the
paradox and the irony of a situation in which Spain has been
a pioneer in the application of universal jurisdiction. Yet,
when it actually comes to investigating the case and the
facts of the case in Spain, the country denies access to the
facts and puts the judge himself on trial. It is the
obligation of a judge to investigate the cases and to search
for truth, justice and reparation for the victims of these
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the particular powers of a
judge in Spain that may differ from what we here in the
United States understand as a judge's power, that the judges
in Spain have both a sort of prosecutorial as well as a
judgment aspect to their responsibilities, could you explain
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: Yes. [translated] Judges in Spain are
a combination of prosecutor, investigator and judge.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the WikiLeaks
revelations. In Spain, there's a lot of attention, of the
documents, the U.S. government cables that have come out,
about U.S. interference with the judiciary in Spain. One of
the WikiLeaks cables was signed by Edward Aguirre, who is
the-President Bush's ambassador to Spain, who met with you.
And he was concerned about a number of issues, and the U.S.
has been concerned about the case in which-you opened
against six former Bush administration officials, including
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for torture at
Guantanamo. Explain this case and why it has now been
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] In Spain, opened two
procedures against-in the Guantanamo case: a general case
against-regarding those six people and another specific case
in four cases of torture. They were each in separate courts.
The case of the four specific cases of torture is in his
court, and it's gone forward, although without specific
indictments against particular individuals. Under the
principle of universal jurisdiction, they have requested
that the United States answer whether they are following up,
investigating that case, or not. And if not, we'll take it
to the next step. It's quite clear that they're crimes
against humanity, cases of torture, and therefore the
government is obliged, under universal jurisdiction, to
AMY GOODMAN: The ambassador in the document, in the
WikiLeaks cable, said you have an anti-American streak. Your
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: No, you know, no, I don't. Enemy
against the United States, no. I think that is the justice,
only justice, as the torture is a universal crime, is
necessary to investigate. Only this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I'd like to ask you about-to go back to the
case of the Franco era. The New York Times, in an editorial
in support of you, said recently, "The real crime[s] in this
case are the disappearances, not Mr. Garzón's investigation.
If, as seems likely, these were crimes against humanity
under international law, Spain's 1977 amnesty could not
legally absolve them." Interestingly, the charges were
brought against you initially by right-wing, pro-Franco
groups in the country. So, in essence, some claim that the
only one to be prosecuted for the crimes of the Franco era
are the judge that has tried to investigate the cases. Could
you-for Americans who are not familiar with what happened
during the Franco era, could you talk a little bit about
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] The paradox again is
that the government refuses to investigate the crimes
against humanity and at the same time is prosecuting the
judge who wants to uncover them. There were between 150,000
and 200,000 people disappeared under the Franco regime, as
part of the civil population. It's still not known where the
victims lie buried. It's a permanent crime, and therefore it
cannot be absolved by an amnesty law.
AMY GOODMAN: Judge Baltasar Garzón, you have called for the
exhumation of 19 unmarked graves, among them the one
believed to contain the remains of the great poet, Federico
García Lorca. Why?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] He ordered specifically
the opening, the exhumation of Lorca's grave, because it was
requested by the families of the other people who apparently
are buried with him. And the request was made specifically
to the judge of Granada, the area where the burial is.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you hope to find?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] So, the process is
paralyzed right now because the judge of the location where
Lorca is buried is one of those who objected and brought the
case against Garzón. And the Supreme Court has suspended his
decision to exhume the grave.
AMY GOODMAN: So, we're going to go to break, but when we
come back, we want to talk to Judge Baltasar Garzón about
what this means that he now has been indicted, he has been
suspended, he can't practice law right now in Spain, what it
means for all of these cases. This is Democracy Now!,
democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a
AMY GOODMAN: Victor Jara. This is Democracy Now!,
democracynow.org. Victor Jara, the great Chilean singer who
was killed when the Augusto Pinochet forces rose to power
and Allende died in the palace, September 11th, another
September 11th, remarkably enough, 1973, who died among so
many thousands of Chileans. It's our guest today, Judge
Baltasar Garzón, who first held Augusto Pinochet
accountable, after his 17 years of brutal rule in Chile.
When Augusto Pinochet went to Britain in the late '90s for a
doctor's appointment, Judge Baltasar Garzón, from Spain, had
him indicted. And it was because of that indictment that
Augusto Pinochet was held in Britain for a year, until
eventually allowed to go home.
Now Baltasar Garzón, Judge Garzón, faces his own trial, as
he has been taken off the bench after crusading on many
different issues, including the indictment of Osama bin
Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives in 2003.
I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Judge Garzón, I'd like to ask you about
another case that you were involved with, which was the
investigation of the "dirty war" that occurred against
Basque separatists under a Socialist government, the
government of Felipe Gonzalez, in Spain. And you-many say
that you were responsible for the fall of that government as
a result of what you uncovered. Could you talk about what
you found? And interestingly now, Felipe Gonzalez is
supporting you and saying that what is happening to you is
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] I would never be
responsible for an electoral loss that is due to the
citizens who voted. What I did was simply investigate
accusations of persecution against people accused of
terrorism. The state of law is equal for all people. It
cannot depend on electoral politics. A number of highly
placed officials in the Socialist party, ruling party,
government were accused and found guilty and removed. I
believe that the democracy and the rule of law was
strengthened by this action.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Chile. The family of the
former Chilean president, Salvador Allende, asked last month
for his body to be exhumed to help determine the cause of
his 1973 death. President Allende was overthrown in a U.S.-
backed coup, September 11th, 1973. The official cause of
death on that day in the palace was listed as suicide, but
it's long been speculated he was assassinated by the forces
of General Augusto Pinochet. Allende's daughter, Isabel
Allende, spoke to the media.
ISABEL ALLENDE: [translated] We requested the exhumation
and autopsy. I think it's the most rigorous and
definitive proof to clear up the causes of his death,
and we think this is going to be tremendously important.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the daughter of Salvador Allende,
Isabel Allende, not to be confused with the great writer who
is his niece. What do you say about the calling for the
exhumation and the investigation of whether this was
assassination or whether he took his own life as the Augusto
Pinochet forces moved into the palace?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] In the first instance,
they investigated the criminal actions of those who rose up
against a democratically elected government. The actual
cause of death is less important than recognizing the fact
that this was an illegal action, a coup against a legally
elected government. And for those crimes, Pinochet was
investigated and indicted in London.
AMY GOODMAN: So where do you stand right now, Judge Garzón?
You've been suspended. You face trial. You face prison for
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: I am provisionally suspended in my
function, jurisdictional function. But I hope the trial
against me, that we will, in the next month, I think-but
it's very complicated for me, my actual situation, because I
cannot to investigate, to work in Spain. But I work right
now in La Haya, in the International Criminal Court, with
the prosecutor. But it's not my destination. I hope the
resolution, it will be proximally.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Some of your-you have many people who are
passionately supporters of yours, as well as very strong
critics, including among your colleagues on the bench.
Several major judges in Spain have accused you of basically
being a media personality trying to grab attention and
really overstepping your responsibilities as a judge. How do
you answer those in the judicial community who have
criticized you in the past?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] What's most important
are the cases in which I have participated. Any judge who
had done what I did would be well known. That's not, in
principle, a bad thing. What's wrong is to impede those
investigations and that the victims should not be aided.
It's true that my personality gives an additional passion to
it. But that should be appropriate for any judge. All I've
done is my job, and I intend to continue doing it. And I'm
not especially worried about the criticism that comes from
JUAN GONZALEZ: And even if you're absolved of the charges,
do you think you will be able to continue to function as a
judge in Spain?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] It's possible that I
could continue, but right now I'm involved in a very
interesting project in Colombia. For a certain amount of
time, I'm going to be working with the OAS in Colombia on
furthering the peace process and mediating, to work on a
means of transitional justice.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In terms of having-achieving a peace between
the FARC and the government?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] To be able to mobilize
and put into practice the law which came after the
demobilization, so cases can go to trial and victims can
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to, as we wrap up, talk again about
universal jurisdiction, what this means, using the Spanish
courts to hold tyrants accountable, wherever they may be.
The Spanish government is now curtailing this, saying they
don't want to use universal jurisdiction. You have been a
crusader for this. Lawyers around the world have looked at
what you're doing, seeing if it's possible in their own
countries. Yet your own government is cracking down on this.
Will you be able, if you are cleared of all the charges and
can go back to work, to continue to hold international
torturers, tyrants, accountable?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] Yes, indeed. Not just
me, but any judge should be able to and will be able to do
so. No government in the world is easy with the application
of the principle of universal jurisdiction. It's a mistake.
I believe it's a mistake, because the principle of universal
jurisdiction allows the fight against impunity to move
forward. It's the final scenario when the country itself is
not willing to investigate these crimes, any government.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Were you surprised by some of the WikiLeaks
revelations that indicated an extraordinary degree of
pressure by the United States government on the judiciary
and the government of Spain on cases affecting the United
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] Yes, it did surprise me.
Those who are susceptible to being pressured will be
pressured. And if not, the pressure is meaningless. In this
case, the justice system in Spain, specifically in regard to
Guantanamo, steadfast, stood fast.
AMY GOODMAN: We have just 10 seconds. Short answer. Your
assessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
JUDGE BALTASAR GARZON: [translated] The war in Iraq was an
unjust and illegal war. And the war in Afghanistan, which
has been conducted properly until now, there are many other
things that still need to be revealed.
AMY GOODMAN: Judge Baltasar Garzón, thank you so much for
being with us.
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