There’s a debate here?
The US doesn’t turn over its soldiers. That has about as much effect as the war crimes indictments for Donald Rumsfeld and Wesley Clark.
Agreed. Unless these 3 men decide to vacation on the Costa del Sol the warrents won’t have any effect.
I remember this story (the firing on the Palestine) back when it happened.
Baghdad was being actively invaded by U.S. forces. As one might expect, Iraqi military units were actively opposing this invasion. Basically we have a warzone in just about the most classical sense of the word. The United States made it perfectly clear that it could not be responsible for the safety of any journalists or foreign nationals in Baghdad. The United States released repeated warnings to journalists and others to get out of Baghdad because it was a dangerous area.
Members of a tank crew were fired on in the vicinity of the Palestine Hotel. Correctly or incorrectly, they fired on the Palestine Hotel because they believed it was the source of the hostile fire.
A lot of issues have come up sense then.
-The U.S. military certainly knew that the Palestine hotel was housing journalists. However, the Iraqi military still controlled parts of the city, they still had units in the city. The U.S. military had some degree of respect for the fact that the Palestine hotel was a journalist area. Is it possible that the Iraqi military would use the Palestine as a base to fire on U.S. troops? Definitely, what do they care? During the first Gulf War Saddam hid weapons in hospitals in the hopes that the U.S. wouldn’t destroy them due to fear of harming any civilians in the area.
Just because the Palestine hotel housed journalists does not mean that it couldn’t have been also used by Iraqi forces.
-Have you ever seen pictures of the hotel? It’s huge, someone on the 5th floor would probably have no clue whether or not someone on the roof was firing at U.S. forces on the streets.
And even if hostile fire wasn’t coming from the Palestine, U.S. forces definitely thought that it was. They were being fired upon, and they wouldn’t start firing at a target unless they thought that represented the most likely source of hostile fire. When you’re being fired upon you do your best to get cover and then try to take out the source of hostile fire. You’re not going to start lobbing tank shells off at hotels for the fun of it.
They made a mistake, civilians died. That’s tragic. It is not a crime, it is one of the terrible side effects of warfare.
What the Spanish judge in this case is asking for, in his mind sounds “perfectly reasonable” he just wants a statement from the soldiers involved in the incident. Well, the fact is Baghdad isn’t in his jurisdiction. The U.S. soldiers were never in his jurisdiction, he has no right whatsoever to ask them anything, and there is no legal reason for them to comply. Any compliance to such a request would just legitimize a Spanish court’s ability to prosecute them.
As it is, though, this is just one Spanish judge. And other members of the Spanish judiciary are, from what I’ve read, actively opposing this move and I’d expect the warrants to be thrown out by a higher court.
I don’t think the Spanish government would have the nerve to arrest them even if they were in Spanish territory vacationing.
There are other nations that might have extradition treaties with Spain. Assuming these leaders had the temerity to enforce this ruling, it could very well be that these soldiers cannot leave their own country ever again; realistically, these soldiers are quite safe outside of and possibly even within Spain. It’s illogical for a country to risk committing potential acts of wars with itchy-trigger-finger superpowers to make a political point.
"Come and take them” (Μολών λαβέ ).
Leonidas, king of Sparta, to the Persians when they demanded the Greeks deliver up their arms.
Except the Persians had an impressive army, while the present Spanish army would be hard pressed to defeat a female high-school soccer team of average strength. So typical of our brave new model Europe; the more weak and impotent she becomes, the more shrill, pompous and out of touch with reality her demands. I wish Bush would ditch all the diplomatic bullshit and tell the Spaniards to go stick it where not even the sun of Costa del Sol will reach it. Europe is badly in need of a dose of reality.
The idea of universal jurisdiction is silly. Spain claims jurisdiction even though the US military and the Iraqis passed on prosecution. How many times does a person have to be exposed to a prosecutor’s decision before all other prosecutors admit the double jeopardy rule comes into play?
Doubly jeopardy, as it pertains to U.S. law, applies to trials only. Just because 99 prosecutors decided not to try a case doesn’t mean the 100th has to follow the crowd. Not that I don’t find this all to be a bit silly. What is the judge in Spain trying to prove?
If you fire a tank shell into a hotel in the US, the military, the county and maybe the state can decide to try you or not.
If you fire a tank shell into a hotel in Iraq, it would seem you are at risk from the military, the Iraqis, the Spanish, the Russian and so on. That is simply not fair.
Just out of curiosity, is or was Baghdad in US jurisdiction? I’m thinking from an international point of view. Since the invasion of Iraq was never sanctioned by the UN doesn’t this leave Iraq in something of a no-mans land concerning legality? What if one of the other participants in the invasion (the UK for example) decided to bring up this case on behalf of the Spanish citizens?
Like I say, no legal knowledge here, just curiosity.
Also, if the situation were reversed and US journalists were told to stay away, in the event of a European country’s army killing US journalists, would the US response be the same as the Spanish judges? Or do you feel the US would accept the explanation from the European country with no challenge?
Whilst I can see that this Spanish case isn’t going to go anywhere, I can see the judges interest in pursuing justice for Spanish citizens.
Without making any comment w/r/t this case, can you possibly conceive of a situation in which an evildoer has the backing of his own government so as to never face justice for his horrible crimes? If so, then the idea of universal jurisdiction is not silly. (If you can’t, you should look at a newspaper today to get a hint.)
Actually, under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the United States does turn over members of its military to host nations. Please key on the expression there of “host nation.” Spain certainly isn’t the host nation for US military serving in Iraq.
grey_ideas: Regarding your question about jurisdiction, the members of the United States Armed Forces, while on Active Duty, are subject to laws that apply to them no matter where in the world they may be.
A related comment: Apparently, Spain has legislated it a crime that if someone kills a Spanish citizen, even outside of Spain, that someone is then subject to Spanish law. At least, that’s the vibe I’m getting from the story.
This is just a silly quote from the article:
The Italian action is not an example of “universal jurisdiction”. Milan is in freakin’ Italy. That means the Italians have issued warrants due to an alleged crime committed within their national borders. No “universal jurisdiction” there.
Exactly. While it maybe a losing battle the fact remains that the power of justice should prevail over the power of empire. Thus this ruling by Santiago Pedraz in the face of the the obvious lack of mutual cooperation in the investigation on the part of the Americans.
Besides the childish joy present in your above quote, while the Spanish Army is in no position to go to war gainst the US (who is?), we actually have quite a modern and well-equipped armed forces. The only ‘natural’ and/or possible threat to our territory happens to be Morocco and I can assure you we’re more than capable of handling such a conflict – never mind your “female soccer-team.”
Cite: International Think Tank Ranks the World’s Strongest Militaries: #15-Spain.
Take your cheap shots elsewhere.
Just as comment to that bit, if those are the comments of an ‘international think tank’ I worry about the lack of bias in their decision making.
Some of the comments that follow the rankings are slanted to say the least.
The originating site goes into further detail – and it’s lacking the annoying/biased follow-up posts.
Yup. You really showed them pesky Moroccans good the last time didn’t you, when they decided to take your microscopic parsley islands away from you. More than capable to handle such a conflict. Yeah, such a show of Spanish might and military force as you put up must have sent them scurrying for cover. Or not.
I found the whole episode rather silly and blown out of proportion. Still and all, not much Morrocco could do in response.
Maybe that’s not the original link but that site still has the comments in it and more when you click into the details. There are some very curious comments about the UK for example and it misses the SBS off of the special forces groups (alright, as far as I know it’s a part of the Royal Marines, but still).
Looks like the site and it’s comments has a huge US bias to it.