Donate now! Donate

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.




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).

documents (10)


glossary (8)


UN Special Rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN with a mandate to work on a voluntary basis on a specific topic (e.g. torture, freedom of expression, or the right to water) or on a geographical region (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Myanmar).

Related Topics (5)


Double standards

Decision makers in Western democracies often apply double standards when it comes to human rights. While the Global North will condemn and in some cases prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Global South, there is little appetite to examine the role played by Western politicians, military leaders and corporations in crimes against international law. Serious human rights violations committed by Western actors – such as torture, forced disappearances or civilian deaths by drone – are rarely prosecuted. It seems as though different standards apply to human rights abuses, depending on who commits them.

ECCHR undertakes strategic legal interventions to challenge these double standards, to end the impunity of the powerful and to change power structures. ECCHR chooses cases that make political, economic and legal shortcomings visible, in order to force decision-makers in the Global North to question – and ideally, to dismantle – their double standards.