Thursday, January 25, 2007
Spain issues warrant for U.S. soldiers
Last week the Spanish National Court, a lower court, issued arrest warrants for 3 U.S. soldiers for the killing of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso at Baghdad's Hotel Palestine in 2003. The area of the hotel where journalists were staying was destroyed by a shell from an American tank, some say deliberately. According to Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree,
Rafael Jiménez, secretary general of the Spanish branch of Reporters Without Borders, says that on the day US forces took the Baghdad airport, journalists on the scene reported that it wasn't an easy fight. "The Army wasn't going to let that kind of 'propaganda' continue," says Mr. Jiménez. "So the day after, they attacked Al Jazeera's office, and two days later they attacked the Hotel Palestine. It was a clear act to intimidate the press that wasn't embedded and that [therefore] couldn't be controlled."
The three named were Taras Protsyuk, a tank sergeant, Capt. Philip Wolford, who issued the order to fire, and Wolford's commanding officer, Col. Philip DeCamp.
Reporters Abend and Pingree write that the case is a test of the principle of "universal jurisdiction – which holds that some crimes are so grave as to warrant judicial intervention from any country." Spain has already upheld the principle in the prosecutions of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Guatemalan President Efraím Rios Montt but has not applied it to soldiers in wartime.
The Pentagon claims to have done an investigation of the incident and has determined that the soldiers were "acting appropriately."
The long and short of it is that the U.S. will certainly not extradite the soldiers to Spain. Nevertheless they may be tried in absentia for violations of Spanish or international law.
As for the soldiers, travel to any country that has an extradition agreement with Spain could lead to their arrest.
Press suppression in Spain (3/13/06)