I believe this ties into the following article.


http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/ ... ion30.html

Europeans seeking legal sway over Americans

Eric Rosenberg
Hearst Newspapers
Oct. 30, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Three U.S. Army soldiers most likely won't attend the annual "running of the bulls" festival in scenic Pamplona, Spain, anytime soon.

Should Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the Army's 3rd Infantry, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., touch down in Spain, authorities there could arrest them in connection with the deaths of two journalists during the invasion of Iraq.

"Obviously, they shouldn't go to Spain," said Philip Cave, an Alexandria, Va.-based attorney who specializes in military law. advertisement

On April 8, 2003, the three soldiers were part of a tank unit that fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing the two journalists, one of whom, cameraman Jose Manuel Couso Permuy, was a Spanish citizen.

The U.S. Central Command determined that the unit's actions were justified because insurgents had fired on them from the hotel and surrounding area. At the time, the American forces were rolling through Iraq less than a month after the initial invasion.

Nevertheless, a judge in Madrid this month issued arrest warrants for the soldiers, saying that the Americans might have committed murder and a "crime against the international community" by firing on the hotel.

That judicial action followed an Italian judge's arrest warrants for 22 reputed CIA operatives accused of abducting an Islamic cleric in Milan.

A trend among judges
Both cases underscore a trend among some European judges: stepped-up use in the past three years of a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, the view that governments have the right to try anyone accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

It's the same legal principle Spain employed in seeking the extradition of ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from England and a Belgian court used when it sought to put Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on trial for a massacre committed by Lebanese militias in Lebanon in 1982.

The principle has been used liberally against senior American officials, straining bilateral relations with U.S. allies.

In 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet and other officials were named in a criminal complaint filed in a German court on behalf of four Iraqis who alleged that American forces mistreated them at the at Abu Ghraib prison.

Belgium has been a favorite venue for such lawsuits. Courts there have allowed lawsuits alleging human rights crimes by Vice President Dick Cheney, Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President Bush.

"These (legal) trends are dangerous, not just because they threaten to disrupt cooperation between friends and allies but also because the erosion of respect for state sovereignty absolves states of their responsibilities to deal with problems within their borders," Rumsfeld said.

"Belgium needs to realize that there are consequences to its actions," he said in unusually blunt language to a longtime ally.

After Belgium courts allowed a case to move forward alleging war crimes against Franks, Rumsfeld threatened to block funds for NATO buildings and move NATO headquarters from Belgium. Subsequently, Belgium watered down its laws and the lawsuits were thrown out.

Legal principle is alive
But as the case in Spain involving the three U.S. troops demonstrates, the legal principle remains alive and well in Europe.

In issuing the warrant, Judge Santiago Pedraz Gomez of the National Court in Madrid said that it "is the only effective measure to ensure the presence of the suspects in the case being handled by Spanish justice, given the lack of judicial cooperation by U.S. authorities."

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, said that the U.S. Central Command had "fully investigated the incident and determined that the U.S. service members acted appropriately during that combat action."

The military's official report of the incident concluded that insurgents had been "utilizing the Palestine Hotel and the areas immediately around it as a platform for military operations. Baghdad was a high intensity combat area and some journalists had elected to remain there despite repeated warnings of the extreme danger of doing so."

An investigation by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists found that the killing of the two journalists could have been avoided but was not a deliberate act. The organization also countered U.S. statements, saying that there was not hostile fire coming from the hotel.

An 'abuse' of power
Eugene Fidell, a Washington, D.C., attorney and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, called the arrest warrants an "abuse" of judicial power.

"Unless you can demonstrate that our country was unwilling or unable to prosecute these people, it's none of the Spanish government's business," said Fidell, whose private organization studies military jurisprudence and has often been critical of the administration.

The Spanish case reinforces the views of the Bush administration that U.S. sovereignty places American soldiers beyond the reach of other nations' courts.

The Bush administration has refused to join the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, out of concerns over yielding sovereignty.

The ICC is the world's first permanent tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the United States fears the court could pursue politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. soldiers abroad.