Statement on the closure of the legal case for Iraq in Spain

BRussels Tribunal

February 9, 2010

Statement on the closure of the legal case for Iraq in Spain


BRussels Tribunal

MADRID/CAIRO: Public enquiries on the decision to wage war on Iraq that
are silent about the crimes committed, the victims involved, and
provide for no sanction, whatever their outcome, are not enough.
Illegal acts should entail consequences: the dead and the harmed
deserve justice.

On 6 October 2009, working with and on behalf of Iraqi plaintiffs, we
filed a case before Spanish law against four US presidents and four UK
prime ministers for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in
Iraq. The case presented spanned 19 years, including not only the
wholesale destruction of Iraq witnessed from 2003, but also the
sanctions period during which 1.5 million excess Iraqi deaths were

We brought the case to Spain because its laws of universal jurisdiction
are based on principles enshrined in its constitution. All humanity
knows the crimes committed in Iraq by those we accused, but no
jurisdiction is bringing them to justice. We presented with Iraqi
victims a solid case drawing on evidence contained in over 900
documents and that refer to thousands of individual incidents from
which a pattern of accumulated harm and intent can be discerned.

When we brought our case, we knew that the Spanish Senate would soon
vote on an amendment earlier passed by the lower house of parliament to
curtail the application of universal jurisdiction in Spain. We were
conscious that this restriction could be retroactive, and we took
account of the content of the proposed amendment in our case filing. As
we imagined, 2009 turned out to be a sad year for upholding universal
human rights and international law in Spain. One day after we filed,
the law was curtailed, and soon thereafter our case closed. Serious
cases of the kind universal jurisdiction exists to address became more
difficult to investigate.

One more jurisdiction to fall

Despite submitting a 110-page long referenced accusation (the
Introduction of which is appended to this statement), the Spanish
public prosecutor and the judge assigned to our case determined there
was no reason to investigate. Their arguments were erroneous and could
easily have been refuted if we could have appealed. To do so we needed
a professional Spanish lawyer — either in a paid capacity or as a
volunteer who wished to help the Iraqi people in its struggle for
justice. As we had limited means, and for other reasons mostly
concerning internal Spanish affairs, which were not our concern, we
could not secure a lawyer in either capacity to appeal. Our motion for
more time to find a lawyer was rejected.

We continue to believe that the violent killing of over one million
people in Iraq since 2003 alone, the ongoing US occupation — that
carries direct legal responsibility — and the displacement of up to a
fifth of the Iraqi population from the terror that occupation has
entailed and incited suggests strongly that the claims we put forward
ought to be further investigated.

In reality, our case is a paramount example of those that authorities
in the West — Spain included — fear. To them, such cases represent the
double edge of sustaining the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Western states used universal jurisdiction in the past to judge Third
World countries. When victims in the global South began using it to
judge Israel and US aggression, Western countries rushed to restrict
it. Abandoning universal jurisdiction by diluting it is now the general

Call for wider collective effort to prosecute

We regret that the Spanish courts refused to investigate our case, but
this will not discourage us. We have a just cause. The crimes are
evident. The responsible are well known, even if the international
juridical system continues to ignore Iraqi victims. Justice for victims
and the wish of all humanity that war criminals should be punished
oblige us to search for alternative legal possibilities, so that the
crimes committed in Iraq can be investigated and accountability

At present, failed international justice allows US and UK war criminals
to stand above international law. Understanding that this constitutes
an attack — or makes possible future attacks — on the human rights of
everyone, everywhere, we will continue to advocate the use of all
possible avenues, including UN institutions, the International Criminal
Court, and popular tribunals, to highlight and bring before law and
moral and public opinion US and UK crimes in Iraq.

We are ready to make our experience and expertise available to those
who struggle in the same direction. We look forward to a time when the
countries of the global South, which are generally victims of
aggression, reinforce their juridical systems by implementing the
principle of universal jurisdiction. This will be a great service to
humanity and international law.

Millions of people in Iraq have been killed, displaced, terrorized,
detained, tortured or impoverished under the hammer of US and UK
military, economic, political, ideological and cultural attacks. The
very fabric and being of the country has been subject to intentional
destruction. This destruction constitutes one of the gravest
international crimes ever committed. All humanity should unite in
refusing that law — by failing to assure justice for Iraqi victims —
enables this destruction to be the opening precedent of the 21st

Ad Hoc Committee For Justice For Iraq


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