Torture in Guantánamo: Spain closes investigations into “Bush Six”

USA – Guantánamo – Spain

In March 2009, ECCHR partner lawyer Gonzalo Boye filed a criminal complaint against six former US officials of the Bush administration, among them former government lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee. The aim: to ensure the so-called “Bush Six” are held accountable for breaches of international law. They are accused of having aided and abetted crimes of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

In the proceedings, ECCHR represents German citizen Murat Kurnaz, who was detained and tortured in Guantánamo from 2002 to 2006. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York also supports the case.


The principle of universal jurisdiction was part of Spanish law until 2014. A law reform in that year, however, means that the Spanish judiciary can now prosecute international crimes only if the perpetrators are Spanish citizens or live in Spain. After six years of criminal investigations, Spain’s National Court therefore decided in July 2015 to close the investigations into US torture in Guantánamo.

The subsequent complaint submitted by ECCHR and CCR to the Spanish constitutional court was rejected in March 2019. In its decision, which is final, the court ignored evidence that indicated the involvement of Spanish suspects. With this decision, Spain has missed its opportunity to take a leading role in the fight against US torture. The “Bush Six” have never faced legal proceedings for their actions. The options of filing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN are now being explored.


The absolute prohibition of torture is one of the central and universally applicable norms of international law. Since 2001, the US has ignored this fundamental principle in its counter-terrorism operations and has kidnapped and tortured persons suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The “Bush Six” played a crucial role in this violation of the fundamental prohibition of torture. The complaint filed against them in Spain detailed how the six officials paved the way for the systematic torture in in Guantánamo and Iraq by seeking to provide legal justification for the use of torture methods.


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The "Bush Six", as the six US officials became known, includes David Addington (former Counsel to, and Chief of Staff for the former Vice President Dick Cheney); Jay Bybee (former Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice); Douglas Feith (former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Department of Defense); Alberto Gonzales (former Counsel to President George W. Bush, former US Attorney General); William J. Haynes (former General Counsel at the Department of Defense) and John Yoo (former Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice).

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Amicus curiae brief

An amicus curiae brief is a submission to a court setting out a legal position.

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The law is clear: torture is prohibited under any circumstances. Whoever commits, orders or approves acts of torture should be prosecuted. This is set out in the UN Convention against Torture which has been ratified by 146 states.

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