Spain to pursue inquiry into killing of cameraman by U.S. shell in Iraq

MADRID Fri Jun 6, 2014 2:40pm EDT

Undated file TV grab of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso, 37, who wasworking for Spanish TV channel Tele5, was killed along with Reuters TVcameraman Taras Protsyuk in Baghdad April 8, 2003. REUTERS/HO/Tele5

Undated file TV grab of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso, 37, who wasworking for Spanish TV channel Tele5, was killed along with Reuters TVcameraman Taras Protsyuk in Baghdad April 8, 2003.

Credit: Reuters/HO/Tele5

Related Topics

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's High Court ruled on Friday that a criminal investigation into the killing of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso by a U.S. tank shell in Iraq in 2003 could be pursued, despite a new law placing limits on judicial powers in international cases.

Judicial authorities have sought the arrest and questioning of three U.S. soldiers accused of involvement in Couso's death. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed by the shell that crashed into a Baghdad hotel.

A law passed by Spain's center-right government in March curbed the powers of judges to prosecute human rights cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The High Court must now rule on the legality of all pending cases one by one.

Cases now must be dismissed if they do not meet the new legal requirements that those accused of alleged human rights abuses must themselves be Spanish citizens.

Despite the alleged perpetrators of Couso's death not being Spanish, the High Court ruled that the case could be continued under terms of the Geneva Convention, which defines the rights and protection afforded to civilians in war zones.

In November 2004, a U.S. Defense Department report stated that U.S. forces bore "no fault or negligence" in the shelling of the hotel, where some 100 international journalists were staying at the time.

Universal jurisdiction, the principle that crimes such as genocide and torture are so serious they can be prosecuted across borders, was pioneered by Spain in 1985 and led to the detention in London of Chilean former dictator Pinochet in 1998 through an arrest warrant issued from Spain.

"It's been said that when people could not find justice, they came to Spain," said European University of Madrid law professor Nieves Noval. He said about 13 cases in areas from El Salvador to Rwanda were being processed in Spanish courts.

However, China, Israel and the United States have all bristled at Spanish judicial investigations into allegations of genocide, rights abuses or war crimes. Critics say this led to the tightening of the law to prevent diplomatic disputes.

(Reporting by Sonya Dowsett and Rodrigo de Miguel, editing by Mark Heinrich)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
blanddragon wrote:
News update Spain. People die in war zones. War reporters die in war zones. People seeking inane law suites got to Spain for ‘justice’ is more like it. Human rights are only talked about by EU countries for countries they don’t sell weapons to.

Jun 06, 2014 3:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.