Saturday, April 28, 2007

Somebody cares about the Rule of Law (at least a little bit)

Spanish Judge Indicts 3 U.S. Soldiers

MADRID, Spain - A judge indicted three U.S. soldiers Friday in the 2003 death of a Spanish journalist who was killed when their tank opened fire at a hotel in Baghdad.

Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp were charged with homicide in the death of Jose Couso and "a crime against the international community." This is defined under Spanish law as an indiscriminate or excessive attack against civilians during war.

At the time of the incident, all were from the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. Judge Santiago Pedraz asked U.S. authorities to notify them of the indictment.

Couso, who worked as a cameraman for the Spanish TV network Telecinco, died on April 8, 2003, after a U.S. Army tank crew fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel, where many journalists were staying. Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, was also killed.

Following the incident, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said the troops responded after drawing hostile fire from the hotel. He said a U.S. review of the incident found the use of force was justified.

According to the five-page indictment, DeCamp ordered the shot, and Wolford then authorized Gibson to carry it out.

"The people indicted knew and were aware that the Palestine Hotel was occupied by civilians, without there being a proved threat (sniper or otherwise) against themselves or the U.S troops, therefore, the tank shot that caused the death of Mr. Couso would constitute an attack, retaliation, or violence threat or act aimed at terrifying journalists," the indictment said.

DeCamp, who is now an adjunct professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., did not immediately return a telephone message left at his home. The school said he retired from the Army in July 2005.

Pedraz has issued several arrest warrants against the three, but the United States has made clear it will not hand them over.

The three men still run the risk of arrest under a Spanish-issued international warrant should they travel to any country that has an extradition treaty with Spain.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it was allegedly committed.

In a separate case in Italy that has strained relations between Washington and Rome, former Spc. Mario Lozano, 37, of New York City went on trial in absentia earlier this month for the shooting death of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Iraq two years ago.

The agent, Nicola Calipari, was shot March 4, 2005, on his way to the Baghdad airport shortly after securing the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena. Sgrena and another agent who was driving the car were wounded.

Lozano, who was indicted in February on charges of murder and attempted murder, has defended his actions in comments to the U.S. media, saying he had no choice but to fire. He says he flashed a warning light signaling the vehicle to stop and that he shot first at the ground, and then at the car's engine.

The judge has adjourned the proceedings until May 14 for technical reasons.

Also in Italy, prosecutors in February indicted 26 Americans, all but one believed to be CIA agents, accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003.

Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr, suspected of recruiting fighters for radical Islamic causes, was flown to Egypt as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, and he was held in a prison where he has said he was tortured.

The 26 Americans have left Italy, and U.S. official have said they would not be turned over for prosecution even if Rome requests it. The trial is expected to start in June.

Resistance to the war in Iraq ran high in both Spain and Italy.

Spain was the scene of major protests before and during the early months of the U.S.-led invasion, with huge demonstrations in Barcelona and Madrid.

Original article posted here.


John Byrnes said...

If somebody cares about the rule of law, it's not the Spaniards or the Italians. After all both countries signed the Geneva convention, which acknowkedges the US military as the proper legal authority for these cases, both countries signed the NATO treaty which has codicils relating to the treatment of allied soldiers in these circumstances. It's not these nations who unilaterally claim worldwide jurisdiction disregarding both International Law and the concept of national sovereignty. This isn't law it's pandering to a vocal anti-war, anti-american left.

Da Weaz said...

Sorry, the world is anti-war, and should be. Law is largely a fiction anyway, especialy international law. If you want to offer examples of who actually respects of the "Rule of Law", I'd love to get a good laugh.

John Byrnes said...

The world is anti-war? Well how can you tell? Not by looking around. War is endemic. Darfur, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, and much of the Sahel in Africa are in conflict presently. Someone is always at war.

Perhaps it should be. No one is more anti-war than those of us who've been there. It's even uglier than you think. But when we do have wars, can we expect those who do participate to follow the rules of civilian life?

You opened your comments with an appeal to 'rule of law'. Now you call it a fiction. Can't have it both ways.

The truth of labeling "law" a fiction is more complicated than your facile reply. Law, Government, Money and many other epi-phnomena are not quite real objects, but they are not quite fictions either. We all count on money, and we all know the effects of blatant disregard for the law. If "law" is to be treated as a fiction than the Spanish and the Italians have no point at all.

Da Weaz said...

War in endemic in the countries you mention and perhaps if you knew the US' role in stoking fires in each of those nations it would help you understand the catalysts for such fighting.

Someone is always at war, and the US is always there pushing.

Fictions can be persuasive. I believe the Rule of Law is a fiction, but at least it can be a helpful fiction, especially if people follow the rules.

If you are a child and you play games, they are games, but they can be fun, and they can keep people from fighting.

I think my comments are much less facile than you believe, and to explain it to you would take a lot of time, that I am currently devoting to the same subject. But yes, law IS a fiction. But the point is/was that you were challenging the Spanish actions, but have offered nothing in return.

If you want to pursue an issue to its conclusion, it might be helpful to take a stand. You say that government is not quite real but not quite a fiction. Who is trying to have it both ways?