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José Couso


Monday’s multiple rocket and suicide-bomber attacks on two Baghdad hotels, the Sheraton and the Palestine—bases from which American and British reporters have practiced “hotel journalism,” a trade now having degenerated into “mouse journalism,” in Robert Fisk’s mocking phrase—at least when they weren’t simply feeding off the occupation’s handouts in the Green Zone, or in-bed with Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha (“MET Alpha,” for those of you who like to play Pirates-and-Emperors), or making the rounds back in Washington, New York, and London—were the first to strike these fortified targets in more than twelve months, coming “shortly after the ritual evening breaking of the Ramadan fast,” Reuters reminds us.

(Quick aside. As part of a stump-speech while on a tour to promote his recently published book, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East (Harper Collins, 2005), Robert Fisk has been telling everyone who will listen: “You cannot imagine just how bad things are in Iraq. A few weeks ago, I went to see a man whose son was killed by the Americans, and I was in his house for five minutes before armed men turned up in the street outside. He had to go and reason with them not to take me away. And this was an ordinary Baghdad suburb, not the Sunni Triangle or Fallujah. It has got to the stage where, for example, when I went to have a look at the scene of a huge bomb in a bus station, I jumped out of the car and took two pictures before I was surrounded by a crowd of enraged Iraqis. I jumped back in the car and fled. I call that ‘mouse journalism’ — and that’s all we can do now. If I go to see someone in any particular location, I give myself 12 minutes, because that is how long I reckon it takes a man with a mobile phone to summon gunmen to the scene in a car. So, after 10 minutes I am out. Don’t be greedy. That’s what reporting is like in Iraq….This country is now hell — a disaster. You cannot imagine how bad it is. Nothing of the reporting I see generally, except The Guardian and Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, really conveys the absolute agony and distress of Iraq. The Ministry of Health, which is partly run by Americans, will not give out any figures for civilian casualties; staff are just not allowed to give us these figures. When I went to the city morgue in Baghdad one day nearly four weeks ago, I arrived at 9am and there were nineviolent death corpses there. By midday there were 26 corpses. When I managed to get access to the computer system of the mortuary, I discovered that in July 1,100 Iraqis had been killed in Baghdad alone. Multiply that across Iraq and you are talking about 3,000 a month or more, which means 36,000 a year. So these figures claiming 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties are not necessarily conservative at all. But no-one wants to report on this. One of the delights of the occupying powers is that the journalists cannot move. When I travel outside Baghdad by road it takes me two weeks to plan it, because the roads are infested with insurgents, checkpoints, hooded men and throat-cutters. That’s what it’s like. It is almost impossible to get access to free information outside Baghdad or Basra. Most of the reporters who can travel are doing so as members of military convoys with armour to protect them. The last time I travelled to Najaf, the road was littered with burned-out American vehicles, smashed police vehicles, abandoned checkpoints and armed men. That’s Iraq today — it’s in a state of anarchy, and many areas of Baghdad are in fact now in insurgent hands….This is a war the likes of which I have never reported before. Over and over again, we are escaping with our lives because we are lucky. And it is getting much worse, not better — don’t believe what Blair is telling you. It is very sad to have to say that I don’t know if we can go on reporting in Iraq. I don’t know if I can personally keep on going back. This last trip there was so dangerous and frightening, I actually said to some people that we were going to have to debate whether the risks are worth it all.” (“Mouse Journalism Is the Only Way We Can Report on Iraq—Fisk,” Matthew Lewin, Press Gazette (U.K.), October 13, 2005.))

Particularly hard hit was the Palestine, where the “attacks caused heavy damage to the south side of the 19-story hotel, forcing journalists, including those from AP, Fox News and the U.S. government-funded Alhurra TV station to take refuge in the corridor,” Associated Press reports. “After the bombing, Iraqi forces opened up with heavy automatic weapons fire, apparently firing at random. There was no sign of a further assault on the hotel.”

At least 17 people died in these blasts. I cannot tell you how many more may have died today in reprisal raids out in Anbar province. Or Salahaddin. Or Nineveh.

Acknowledging the “grim milestone of the 2,000th U.S. military death looming in Iraq,” a second Associated Press report wondered aloud “about the direction of the insurgency that killed most of them.” The very next paragraph laid out the tactical scenarios pretty starkly:

Experts think the country’s increasingly regional-oriented politics will fuel the insurgency and even spread it further inside Iraq. Others put forward a simple, disquieting scenario: So long as U.S. and other foreign troops remain in Iraq, the insurgency will continue.


“How red he glares amongst those
deepening clouds, like the blood he predicts.”

Anyone searching for a silver lining had better look elsewhere. The plague-clouds mushrooming over Iraq only keep darkening. As long as the occupation lasts, that is. And as long as the Americans keep driving it. No matter how “multinational” it is made to seem. How many elections and referenda are staged. How many drafts this or some other constitution undergoes.

“Everywhere the leaves of the trees are shaking fitfully, as they do before a thunderstorm. Not rain-cloud, but a dry black veil, which no ray of sunshine can pierce. It looks partly as if it were made of poisonous smoke. But mere smoke would not blow to and fro in that wild way. Instead it looks to me as if it were made of dead men’s souls.”

“The hotel has been attacked several times since the war started in March 2003,” the first AP account from this morning continues. “On April 8, 2003—the day before Saddam Hussein’s regime fell—U.S. tank fire killed two TV cameramen—a Spaniard and a Ukrainian—at the hotel.”

I bother rehearsing the wire services’ initial accounts of Monday’s otherwise lethally routine events in central Baghdad for one reason, and one reason only: AP’s quip about the Spaniard José Couso and the Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk, both of whom were killed on the aforementioned date of April 8, 2003, when an American tank crew decided to shell the Palestine Hotel at point-blank range. (“As flies to wanton boys….They kill them for their sport.”)

(Quick aside. According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 73 individuals working in the “news” field in some capacity have died during the American war over Iraq. Presumably, this total did not decrease in the aftermath of Monday’s suicide bombings outside the Palestine and Sheraton hotels.)

Last Wednesday, Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz ordered arrest warrants for three American military personnel alleged to have been responsible for the murder of the Telecinco – TV news cameraman José Couso. Although there has been some major wire-service activity about this event (at minimum: AFP, AP, BBC, CBC, CNN.com, DPA, Knight Ridder, Reuters, and Xinhua), there has been virtually no carry over into the establishment print media, including the United States—and the only original print media reports that I’ve found to date have been in the October 20 Guardian (“Spain orders arrest of US soldiers over death,” Giles Tremlett), which was also reprinted in the October 20 Irish Times; and the October 20 Wall Street Journal.

Aside from this, any reporting by the establishment print media has been thanks to the wire services. Thus I’ve also seen versions of the wire-service reports, for example, in The Record (Ontario, Oct. 20), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct. 20), San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Times (Oct. 20), Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Oct. 20), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Oct. 20), Ventura County Star (California, Oct. 20), and the Washington Post (Oct. 20). But as best I can tell, neither the Los Angeles Times nor the New York Times has mentioned the story.

For a major American print daily, the Washington Post‘s brief mention of Judge Pedraz’s decision was so inadequate that it’s worth reproducing in full (“World in Brief,” Oct. 20, Sect. A, p. 18):

MADRID — A judge has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist and a Ukrainian cameraman, a court official said.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, died April 8, 2003, after a U.S. Army tank crew fired a shell on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where many journalists were staying to cover the war. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, also was killed.

It’s always good to see how well-informed are American citizens about the affairs of their state.

Not insignificantly, the very day after Judge Pedraz ordered the arrest of the three Americans, he came under pressure from within the Spanish Government to drop the matter. Thus, Agence France Presse reported (“Spanish prosecutor appeals arrests in Iraq hotel shooting case,” Oct. 20):

Spain’s public prosecutor Thursday appealed against the issuing of international warrants for the arrest of three US soldiers over the shooting of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad in 2003, court sources said.

The appeal has been lodged before judge Santiago Pedraz, the investigating magistrate who issued the warrant Wednesday and who was therefore likely to reject the appeal, the sources said.

The appeal could still be brought before other High Court magistrates, however.

Jose Couso, working for private Spanish station Telecinco, died along with Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, after a US tank fired shells on the Hotel Palestine on April 8, 2003.

Two journalists and a Reuters technician were also injured in the incident.

In the appeal, the public prosecution service maintained: “It cannot be tolerated that the Spanish authorities have jurisdiction to investigate the death of the two journalists” in Baghdad.

Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that the country’s courts may try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity committed outside the country, whatever the nationality of the victims.

However, in the view of the prosecution service, the incident not only took place outside Spain but was neither an attack on Spanish interests nor a case which could be regarded as coming under the terms of dispensation of universal justice.

The service maintains “it is not possible” to launch an action aganist the three soldiers — Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant-Colonel Philip de Camp — as the case is still open in Spain, Couso’s family having brought a legal action in May 2003.

Pedraz said he issued the warrants following a lack of cooperation from US authorities into his investigation into an “offence against the international community” and an “assassination offence.”

Two Spanish requests to question the trio have gone unheeded.

However, the Pentagon on Wednesday defended the soldiers.

“The US Central Command fully investigated the incident and determined that the US service members acted appropriately during that combat action,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable told AFP.

Regarding the arrest warrants, Venale said: “This is a legal matter that will be handled through appropriate channels.”

Following a US inquiry, the military found no fault or negligence on the part of its troops.

Relations between Madrid and Washington have been fraught since the arrival 18 months ago of a Socialist government which within weeks of taking power withdraw Spanish troops sent by the previous conservative administration to bolster the US-led intervention in Iraq.

The Spanish prosecution service had similarly turned down a judicial request for extradition of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, arrested in London seven years ago. Britain ultimately refused his extradition to Spain.

Here’s a modest prediction: At some point, Judge Santiago Pedraz (or someone else within the Spanish Government) will in fact revoke the three arrest warrants. When this happens—but only when and after this happens—will the American news media discover the story. Whereupon, the Great American News Media will be free to report it, framed as a case of three American military personnel wrongly accused of misconduct during wartime. A stern warning for those internationalists foolish enough to believe that the International Criminal Court can do anything but cause harm.

Universal jurisdiction? International obligations erga omnes? Even irrespective of consent?

Yeah. Sure. Where Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein are concerned.

But for the Americans?

Spanish Judge Issues Warrant for Three GIs,” Maria Jesus Prades, Associated Press, October 19, 2005
Spain orders arrest of US troops,” BBC News World Edition, October 19, 2005
Spanish judge wants U.S. soldiers arrested,” Al Goodman, CNN.com, October 19, 2005
Spanish judge issues arrest warrant for US troops,” Reuters, October 19, 2005
Spain orders arrest of US soldiers over death,” Giles Tremlett, The Guardian, October 20, 2005
Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for 3 U.S. soldiers,” Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, October 20, 2005

17 Dead as Bombs Hit Baghdad Hotel Housing Foreign Journalists,” Associated Press, October 24, 2005 (as posted to Truthout)
Iraq Insurgency Shows No Signs of Abating,” Associated Press, October 24, 2005 (as posted by the FOX News Channel)
Deadly blasts rock Baghdad hotels,” BBC News World Edition, October 24, 2005
Car Bombs Kill 15 Near Baghdad Hotels,” Michael Georgy, Reuters, October 24, 2005

FYA (“For your archives”): Am posting here a selection of what I’ve been able to find to date on the warrants issued by the Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz for the arrest of the three Americans. (Space limitations preclude me from posting more.)

Agence France Presse — English
October 19, 2005 Wednesday 2:36 PM GMT
HEADLINE: Spanish judge cites three US soldiers for death of Spanish cameraman
DATELINE: MADRID Oct 19

A Spanish judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for three US soldiers suspected of involvement in the April 2003 shelling of a Baghdad hotel in which Spanish cameraman Jose Couso was killed, a legal source said.

Judge Santiago Pedraz cited Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp, Captain Philip Wolford and Sergeant Thomas Gibson for their alleged responsibility in the incident when a tank shelled the Palestine Hotel, which was being used by media covering the Iraq conflict, killing two cameramen and wounding three other staff of the Reuters news agency.

Pedraz called for the arrest of the three soldiers to “ensure (their) presence in the process led by Spanish judicial authorities and in view of the lack of cooperation from American authorities to clarify the facts.”

Pedraz asked the United States in June for authorisation to question the three soldiers, whom he is investigating for an “offence against the international community” and an “assassination offence.”

The soldiers risk a maximum 20-year jail sentence, according to Wednesday’s judicial order.

The judge wrote that he had received no reply to his request for information from U.S. authorities.

The US military said that “coalition forces had committed no fault or negligence,” in a report quoted by Reporters Without Borders in 2004.

The military report said that “the shelling was directed against what was taken for an enemy firing position and observation point,” according to the media watchdog.

Couso’s family in April called for the European Parliament to ask the United States to open an independent inquiry, calling the incident a “deliberate” attack aiming “to silence and blind independent media” in Iraq.

Agence France Presse — English
October 19, 2005 Wednesday 6:49 PM GMT
HEADLINE: Pentagon declines to address Spanish warrant against US troops
DATELINE: WASHINGTON Oct 19

The Pentagon declined to address Wednesday an arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge against three US soldiers suspected of involvement in the 2003 shelling of a Baghdad hotel which killed a Spanish cameraman.

Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz earlier Wednesday cited US Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp, Captain Philip Wolford and Sergeant Thomas Gibson for their alleged involvement in the incident, according to a legal source.

Spanish cameraman Jose Couso died in April 2003 when a US tank shelled Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which was being used by the international media covering the Iraq war.

Another cameraman died in the shelling while three other staff of the Reuters news agency were wounded.

“It is a complex legal matter. I don’t have any information with regard how the department will respond to the warrants,” Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

“The legal framework is such that I am unable to comment on it at this point. Having said that, with regard to the incident itself, the journalist’s death at the Palestine Hotel was a tragedy,” Venable said.

The US military found no fault or negligence on the part of its troops following a US inquiry into the shelling of the hotel.

“There was a full and comprehensive investigation about the incident conducted,” Venable added.

Agence France Presse — English
October 19, 2005 Wednesday 11:21 PM GMT
HEADLINE: US troops “acted appropriately” in Baghdad hotel shelling: Pentagon
DATELINE: WASHINGTON Oct 19

The Pentagon Wednesday defended the actions of US soldiers who have been cited for arrest by a Spanish judge in connection with the 2003 shelling of a Baghdad hotel that killed a Spanish cameraman.

“The US Central Central Command fully investigated the incident and determined that the US service members acted appropriately during that combat action,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable told AFP.

Following a US inquiry, the military found no fault or negligence on the part of its troops in the April 2003 incident.

Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz earlier Wednesday issued arrest warrants for US Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp, Captain Philip Wolford and Sergeant Thomas Gibson for their alleged involvement in the shelling, according to a legal source.

Spanish cameraman Jose Couso died in April 2003 when a US tank shelled Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which was being used by the international media covering the Iraq war.

Another cameraman died in the shelling while three other staff members of the Reuters news agency were wounded.

The US Department of Defense had cooperated fully with the Spanish government and provided information on the incident, Venable said.

“The Department of Defense takes seriously all allegations concerning possible violations of the laws of war by US service members,” he said.

As for the arrest warrants, Venable said: “This is a legal matter that will be handled through appropriate channels.”

He added that “the journalist’s death at the Palestine Hotel was a tragedy”.

The Associated Press
October 19, 2005, Wednesday, BC cycle
HEADLINE: Spanish judge issues arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers over journalist’s death
BYLINE: By MARIA JESUS PRADES, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: MADRID, Spain

A judge has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist and a Ukrainian cameraman, a court official said Wednesday.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, died April 8, 2003, after a U.S. army tank crew fired a shell on Hotel Palestine in Baghdad where many journalists were staying to cover the war.

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, also was killed.

Pedraz had sent two requests to the United States – in April 2004 and June 2005 – to have statements taken from the suspects or to obtain permission for a Spanish delegation to quiz them. Both went unanswered.

He said he issued the arrest order because of a lack of judicial cooperation from the United States regarding the case.

The warrant “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,” the judge said in the warrant.

The Pentagon had no immediate information and said it was looking into it.

U.S. officials have insisted that the soldiers believed they were being shot at when they opened fire.

Following the Palestine incident, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said a review of the incident found that the use of force was justified.

In late 2003, the National Court, acting on a request from Couso’s family, agreed to consider filing criminal charges against three members of the tank crew.

Fort Stewart spokeswoman Jennifer Scales said the three no longer are assigned to Fort Stewart or the 3rd Infantry Division.

De Camp, who is now an adjunct mathematics professor at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., said three investigations into the incident – two military investigations and one by the Committee to Protect Journalists – had exonerated all three men.

“We had no clue there were journalists over at that hotel,” he said. “We would not have shot at them.”

The retired officer also said his men were constantly taking risks by letting people get close to their convoy so that they could verify whether they were enemy combatants.

When asked if he would turn himself in, de Camp said, “I don’t know, I’ve got to get some legal advice.”

Pilar Hermoso, an attorney for Couso’s family, welcomed the decision, although she recognized that it would be difficult to get the soldiers extradited to Spain, the state news agency Efe reported.

Small protests over the killing have been staged outside the U.S. Embassy in Madrid nearly every month since Couso’s death.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it is committed.

BBC News World Edition
October 19, 2005
Spain orders arrest of US troops

A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest order for three US soldiers over the shelling of a Baghdad hotel that killed a cameraman.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt Shawn Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford and Lt Col Philip de Camp, of the US 3rd Infantry Division.

Jose Couso, of Spanish TV network Telecinco, died in April 2003 when a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel.

Reuters news agency cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed.

The National Court agreed to consider filing criminal charges against three members of the tank crew two years ago, acting on a request from Mr Couso’s family.

‘No co-operation’

Speaking on Wednesday, the judge said he had issued the arrest order because of a lack of judicial co-operation from the US in the case.

The family of Mr Couso said they were delighted at the news, and that they now hoped justice would be done.

US officials say the tank crew believed they were being shot at when they opened fire, although TV footage of the incident did not record any incoming fire.

The incident was witnessed on TV around the world on the day before the fall of the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, as the Palestine was the base for almost all the foreign media crews in Baghdad.

Earlier on the same day, a correspondent for the Arabic TV broadcaster al-Jazeera was killed when US missiles hit the network’s office in Baghdad.

Following the incident, then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell said a US review of the incident had found the use of force was justified.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
October 19, 2005
Spain issues warrant for U.S. soldiers
CBC News

A judge in Spain has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers in the shelling of a hotel in Baghdad that killed a Spanish journalist.
High court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant on Wednesday for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt.-Col. Philip de Camp, then of the U.S. 3rd Infantry.
Jose Couso, of the Spanish television network Telecinco, died on April 8, 2003, after a U.S. tank fired on the Hotel Palestine, where many foreign journalists were staying during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The shelling – which took place a day before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime – also killed a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters and seriously injured three other journalists.
It was captured in TV footage and sparked worldwide controversy, as some critics – particularly in the Arab world – accused the United States of deliberately targeting journalists to try to intimidate them.
On the same day, U.S. bombs hit the Baghdad office of the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera, killing a correspondent.
A U.S. investigation has cleared the men of any wrongdoing, saying that the soldiers believed they were returning fire in both incidents.
Journalists at the Palestine Hotel have said that no one was firing from the building and the TV footage didn’t record any gunfire.
The judge said he issued the warrants because the United States refused to co-operate with the investigation, ignoring repeated requests to take statements from the suspects or let Spanish authorities interview them.
The arrest warrants will be submitted to the international policing organization Interpol.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
October 19, 2005, Wednesday
HEADLINE: ROUNDUP: Spain issues arrest warrant for three U.S. officers
DATELINE: Madrid

Spain’s National Court issued an international arrest warrant in view of extradition Wednesday for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired at a Baghdad hotel, killing Spanish cameraman Jose Couso during the Iraq war.

Judge Santiago Pedraz said arresting the three was the only way to ensure they would be at the court’s disposal, “given the nil judicial cooperation of the U.S. authorities in clarifying the facts”.

Pedraz said Spain had sent two requests to the U.S., asking for documents and for the suspects to be interrogated or allowing a Spanish judicial commission to come to do so, without receiving replies.

The officers were named as Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp of the third armoured infantry division.

Spanish reports said Gibson fired at the hotel, believing that someone there was observing his armoured unit with binoculars. Wolford authorized the attack ordered by de Camp.

The National Court has indicted the three with a crime against the international community, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Couso, who worked for the television channel Telecinco, was fatally injured when the hotel was hit by a U.S. shell. An Ukrainian cameraman was also killed in the attack.

Couso family’s lawyer Pilar Hermoso described the arrest warrant as “historic”, even if the United States did not extradite its nationals.

Hermoso expressed doubts whether the three officers could be detained outside the U.S. while on a military mission.

EuroNews – English Version
October 19, 2005
HEADLINE: US soldiers face arrest by Spanish authorities

A Spanish High Court judge has issued international arrest warrants for three US soldiers in connection with the death of a Spanish journalist during the war in Iraq.

The three men were named as Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Philip De Camp.

The United States has cleared the men of any blame, although it acknowledges a shell was fired from their tank into the Palestine Hotel where Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk were killed.

A US investigation concluded the men were justified in opening fire.

The Spanish judge, Santiago Pedraz, said he issued the warrant on Wednesday because of a lack of cooperation by US authorities regarding the case.

Pedraz said an investigation had shown the three soldiers involved in the tank attack on April 8, 2003, could be responsible for murder and crimes against the international community.

The charges carry jail sentences of between 10 and 20 years.

Reuters
October 19, 2005
Spanish judge issues arrest warrant for US troops

MADRID (Reuters) – A Spanish High Court judge issued international arrest warrants on Wednesday for three U.S. soldiers in connection with the death of a Spanish cameraman during the war in Iraq.

“I order the … capture and arrest of the U.S. soldiers, with a view to extradition,” High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz said in a court document, adding the order would be submitted to the international police organization Interpol.

The three men were named as Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip De Camp.

The United States has cleared the men of any blame, although it acknowledges a shell was fired from their tank into the Palestine Hotel where Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk were killed.

Three other Reuters staff were seriously injured in the shelling of the hotel, the base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad at the time. The incident in 2003 occurred a day before U.S. troops captured the city.

A U.S. investigation concluded the men were justified in opening fire and U.S. officials repeated that conclusion on Wednesday.

“While this was certainly a tragic incident and we regret the loss of life, the report and investigation indicated that the soldiers acted in accordance with the rules of engagement during this time of war,” a U.S. official told Reuters.

Previously, both Pentagon and State Department officials have said privately that there is no way the soldiers would be sent to Spain for trial.

“I just cannot imagine how any U.S. soldier can be subject to some kind of foreign proceeding for criminal liability when he is in a tank in a war zone as part of an international coalition,” a U.S. State Department official, who asked not to be named, said in June.

Pedraz said an investigation had shown the three soldiers involved in the tank attack on April 8, 2003 could be responsible for murder and crimes against the international community.

The charges carry jail sentences of 15 to 20 years and 10 to 15 years respectively.

The judge said he issued the warrants because U.S. authorities had refused to cooperate. The court had twice asked American officials for help, requesting documents and offering to send a legal team to the United States to take statements from the three men.

But neither request had been answered and he said the warrants were “the only effective measure to ensure the accused are made available to Spanish judicial authorities.”

The High Court took up the case after Couso’s family filed a complaint. It would have jurisdiction only over his death.

Spain has a record of tackling controversial human rights cases. The High Court failed to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet but earlier this year convicted Argentine former navy captain Adolfo Scilingo for crimes against humanity for his role in that country’s so-called dirty war.

(additional reporting by Carol Giacomo in Washington)

UPI
October 19, 2005 Wednesday 6:12 PM EST
HEADLINE: Spanish arrest warrant for U.S. military
DATELINE: MADRID, Oct. 19

A Madrid judge Wednesday issued arrest warrants for three U.S. military personnel in connection with the death in Baghdad of a Spanish jopurnalist in 2003.

Judge Santiago Pedraz said he wanted U.S.Army Lt.Col.

Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford, and Lt.Col.Philip de Camp placed under arrest “to ensure their presence at the proceedings initiated by the Spanish authorities, given the lack of cooperation of the American authorities during the investigation of the incident.”

On 8 April 2003, a U.S. tank fired an artillery round at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing Spanish television journalist Jose Couso, and Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protosyuk.

Asked to comment on the arrest warrants, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Lt.Col. Barry E. Venable told United Press International Wednesday, “This is a legal matter that will be handled through appropriate channels. U.S. Central Command fully investigated the incident and determined that the U.S. service members acted appropriately during that combat action.”

According to press reports of the incident, the tank had fired on the hotel after snipers had been spotted on the roof.

“The Department of Defense has cooperated previously with the Spanish Government, including by providing information concerning the incident and resulting investigation,” Venable said.

Agence France Presse — English
October 20, 2005 Thursday 3:57 PM GMT
HEADLINE: Spanish prosecutor appeals arrests in Iraq hotel shooting case
DATELINE: MADRID Oct 20

Spain’s public prosecutor Thursday appealed against the issuing of international warrants for the arrest of three US soldiers over the shooting of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad in 2003, court sources said.

The appeal has been lodged before judge Santiago Pedraz, the investigating magistrate who issued the warrant Wednesday and who was therefore likely to reject the appeal, the sources said.

The appeal could still be brought before other High Court magistrates, however.

Jose Couso, working for private Spanish station Telecinco, died along with Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, after a US tank fired shells on the Hotel Palestine on April 8, 2003.

Two journalists and a Reuters technician were also injured in the incident.

In the appeal, the public prosecution service maintained: “It cannot be tolerated that the Spanish authorities have jurisdiction to investigate the death of the two journalists” in Baghdad.

Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that the country’s courts may try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity committed outside the country, whatever the nationality of the victims.

However, in the view of the prosecution service, the incident not only took place outside Spain but was neither an attack on Spanish interests nor a case which could be regarded as coming under the terms of dispensation of universal justice.

The service maintains “it is not possible” to launch an action aganist the three soldiers — Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant-Colonel Philip de Camp — as the case is still open in Spain, Couso’s family having brought a legal action in May 2003.

Pedraz said he issued the warrants following a lack of cooperation from US authorities into his investigation into an “offence against the international community” and an “assassination offence.”

Two Spanish requests to question the trio have gone unheeded.

However, the Pentagon on Wednesday defended the soldiers.

“The US Central Central Command fully investigated the incident and determined that the US service members acted appropriately during that combat action,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable told AFP.

Regarding the arrest warrants, Venale said: “This is a legal matter that will be handled through appropriate channels.”

Following a US inquiry, the military found no fault or negligence on the part of its troops.

Relations between Madrid and Washington have been fraught since the arrival 18 months ago of a Socialist government which within weeks of taking power withdraw Spanish troops sent by the previous conservative administration to bolster the US-led intervention in Iraq.

The Spanish prosecution service had similarly turned down a judicial request for extradition of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, arrested in London seven years ago. Britain ultimately refused his extradition to Spain.

Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
October 20, 2005, Thursday
HEADLINE: Arrest warrant for US soldiers challenged in Spain
SOURCE: RNE Radio 1, Madrid, in Spanish 11:00 GMT, 20 Oct 05

Text of report by Spanish national radio on 20 October

[Presenter] The [National High Court] prosecutor’s office has now formally issued its announced appeal against the decision by Judge [Santiago] Pedraz to issue an arrest warrant against three US soldiers who took part in the attack on the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad in which the Spanish journalist Jose Couso died.

The attorney-general, Candido Conde-Pumpido, believes the decision is arguable in legal terms for these reasons:

[Conde-Pumpido] [words indistinct] No definitive decision has yet been taken on jurisdiction, and therefore it strikes us as arguable in legal terms to issue directly, now, an arrest warrant against these citizens involving rights which are still being determined.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
October 20, 2005, Thursday
HEADLINE: Spanish prosecutor appeals against arrest warrant for U.S. soldiers
DATELINE: Madrid

A prosecutor at Spain’s National Court appealed Thursday against an international arrest warrant issued by judge Santiago Pedraz for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired at a Baghdad hotel, killing Spanish cameraman Jose Couso during the Iraq war.

National Court judge Pedraz issued an arrest warrant in view of extradition on Wednesday, alleging the “nil cooperation” of the U.S. authorities in clarifying the circumstances of Couso’s death.

Pedraz accuses the three soldiers of a crime against the international community and of murder, because Couso was a civilian protected by the 1949 Geneva Convention.

Prosecutor Pedro Rubira argued the case was not under the court’s jurisdiction and that the court had not even officially decided to launch proceedings concerning it.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said police would hand the arrest warrant over to Interpol once the National Court’s decision was “firm” and the prosecutor’s appeal had been resolved.

The U.S. soldiers in question were named as Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp of the third armoured infantry division.

Spanish reports said Gibson fired at the hotel, believing there were Iraqis helping to direct fire at U.S. troops. Wolford authorized the attack ordered by de Camp.

Couso, who worked for the television channel Telecinco, was fatally injured when the hotel was hit by a U.S. shell. Ukrainian Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk was also killed in the attack.

Judge Pedraz said he had sent two requests to the U.S., asking for documents and for the suspects to be interrogated either by U.S. authorities or by a Spanish judicial commission, but had not received replies.

A Pentagon spokesman said the arrest warrant was a legal matter which was being looked at “through appropriate channels”.

The Pentagon says the U.S. central command has investigated the case and concluded the soldiers acted correctly in firing at the hotel.

Spanish analysts said the United States hardly ever extradited its nationals, but that the arrest warrant could make it difficult for the three soldiers to travel abroad as private persons.

The Guardian (London) – Final Edition
October 20, 2005
SECTION: Guardian International Pages, Pg. 16
HEADLINE: Spain orders arrest of US soldiers over death: Judge calls for extradition of men who served in Iraq: Journalist died in press hotel hit by tank shell
BYLINE: Giles Tremlett, Madrid

A Spanish judge issued international arrest warrants yesterday for three US soldiers who face being put on trial in Madrid for the killing of a Spanish television cameraman during the Iraq war.

Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp, Captain Philip Wolford and Sergeant Shawn Gibson of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division were wanted for questioning as suspects in the killing of Jose Couso, from Spain’s Telecinco channel, according to the warrants.

“I order the . . . capture and arrest of the US soldiers, with a view to extradition,” said Judge Santiago Pedraz, an investigating magistrate at the National Court.

The soldiers have not been formally indicted but, should Judge Pedraz decide evidence against them was strong enough for a trial, they would face jail sentences of up to 20 years for murder and “crimes against the international community”.

Couso died when an Abrams tank fired a shell at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel. Reuters TV cameraman Taras Portsyuk, from Ukraine, was also killed and three other Reuters journalists were seriously injured. The hotel, which was attacked the day before Baghdad fell, was home to most of the foreign press covering the battle for the Iraqi capital in April 2003.

Judge Pedraz said he had issued the warrant because the US government had not replied to his requests for help as he investigated Couso’s death.

It was “the only way of ensuring the suspects became available to Spanish judicial authorities, given the complete lack of cooperation,” from the US, the judge explained in a written document.

“Most of the international press was in the Hotel Palestine, where they had gone from the Hotel Rashid, following the Pentagon’s own recommendations,” the judge added.

The Couso family’s lawyer, Pilar Hermoso, admitted it was unlikely that the US would extradite the soldiers but said they could be arrested if they travelled to another country.

A US State Department official told Reuters this year: “I just cannot imagine how any US soldier can be subject to some kind of foreign proceeding for criminal liability when he is in a tank in a war zone as part of an international coalition.”

A US army report released last year cleared the soldiers and said that the shelling was aimed at “what was believed to be an enemy firing platform and observation point”.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, after talking to journalists in the hotel and embedded with the US army, concluded that the attack was not deliberate but could have been avoided.

The CPJ said the Pentagon knew the hotel housed journalists but failed to tell the tank unit. “There is simply no evidence to support the official US position that US troops were returning hostile fire from the Palestine Hotel,” it said.

Knight Ridder Washington Bureau
October 20, 2005, Thursday
HEADLINE: Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for 3 U.S. soldiers
BYLINE: By Drew Brown

WASHINGTON _ A Spanish judge issued international arrest warrants Wednesday for three U.S. soldiers for an incident in which a U.S. tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and killed two journalists.

High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrants for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip deCamp, charging them with murder and violating the Geneva Conventions in the death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso. He requested that they be extradited to Spain for interrogation.

Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecino, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, were killed April 8, 2003, after a U.S. M-1 Abrams tank from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division fired a high-explosive shell at the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists were covering the battle.

Pedraz said he issued the warrants because he hasn’t received U.S. authorities’ cooperation in his investigation, which he opened in 2003 over the objections of Spain’s attorney general, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

A military investigation in August 2003 cleared the three soldiers of any wrongdoing, saying that they acted properly because they believed they were firing on enemy troops. While the Pentagon declined to comment on any legal issues surrounding the case, officials again stood by the findings, saying that the three soldiers had acted “in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

“The United States has the deepest sympathies for those who were killed,” said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman. But “the investigation of the incident … was complete and thorough. The investigation found that the tank … properly fired on suspected enemy hunter-killer team in a proportionate and justifiably measured response.”

None of the three soldiers could be located for comment, and it’s highly unlikely that they would be extradited to Spain to answer the charges. Jennifer Scales, a spokeswoman for Fort Stewart, Ga., where the 3rd Infantry Division is based, said they were no longer assigned to the post.

In Spain, there are weekly demonstrations over Couso’s death outside the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.

Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, which handles requests for overseas extradition, said it would be “completely premature” to say how the United States would respond to the warrants. He said the Justice Department hadn’t received a request for extradition.

The Spanish judge’s actions are part of a broad effort by some European legal authorities to pursue what they call universal jurisdiction or universal justice. The theory holds that countries have the right to bring to justice anyone, regardless of nationality, accused of carrying out crimes of international concern _ genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In June, for example, Italian authorities issued arrest warrants for 13 people they claimed were agents “linked to the CIA.” They’re accused of abducting an Islamic cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt for interrogation.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which investigated the killing of the two journalists in Baghdad, found that the attack wasn’t deliberate but could have been avoided. Spokeswoman Judy Blanks said the group wanted to know why U.S. soldiers weren’t aware that the Palestine Hotel was full of journalists during the invasion.

According to the organization, 56 journalists have been killed in the Iraq war, at least 13 of them by U.S. fire.

The Washington Office on Latin America, a rights group that tries to seek justice over murders and disappearances across Latin America, was uneasy with Pedraz’s ruling. While not endorsing the actions of U.S. soldiers, rights expert Gaston Chiller said the killing of the journalists didn’t appear to be systematic and orchestrated like the political murders of right-wing dictatorships.

“I have a concern that it (the ruling) … undermines the concept of universal jurisdiction,” Chiller said.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
October 20, 2005 Thursday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A12
HEADLINE: DIGEST
BYLINE: FROM NEWS SERVICES
MADRID, SPAIN

Judge issues warrant for three U.S. soldiers

A judge has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist and a Ukrainian cameraman, a court official said Wednesday.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, was killed April 8, 2003, after a U.S. army tank crew fired a shell at Hotel Palestine in Baghdad where many journalists were staying to cover the war. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, also was killed.

Pedraz had sent two requests to the United States — in April 2004 and June 2005 — to have statements taken from the suspects or to obtain permission for a Spanish delegation to quiz them. Both went unanswered.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it is committed.

Voice of America News
October 20, 2005
HEADLINE: Spanish Prosecutor Appeals Arrests of 3 US Soldiers Over Iraqi Hotel Shelling

TEXT: Spain’s public prosecutor has requested that international arrest warrants not be issued for three U.S. soldiers involved in the 2003 shelling of a hotel in Iraq, in which a Spanish journalist was killed.

Court officials say prosecutor Pedro Rubira decided that Spain lacks jurisdiction to investigate the death of Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television station, Telecinco.

The appeal comes one day after a Spanish judge called for the soldiers’ arrests.

The shelling at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel in April 2003 also killed a Ukrainian Reuters news agency cameraman. Many foreign journalists who covered the U.S.-led war in Iraq were staying at the hotel.

Following the incident, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the American troops acted in self-defense after drawing hostile fire from the hotel.

The Washington Post
October 20, 2005 Thursday
Final Edition
SECTION: A Section; A18
HEADLINE: WORLD IN BRIEF

…………

MADRID — A judge has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist and a Ukrainian cameraman, a court official said.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Jose Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, died April 8, 2003, after a U.S. Army tank crew fired a shell on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where many journalists were staying to cover the war. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, also was killed.

The Wall Street Journal Europe
Spanish court ruling threatens to weigh on relations with U.S. — Arrest,
extradition order is issued for three soldiers in man’s death in Iraq
Economy & Politics
By Keith Johnson
20 October 2005

MADRID — Spain’s High Court issued an arrest and extradition order yesterday
for three U.S. soldiers who fired on a hotel and killed a Spanish television
cameraman during the battle for Baghdad in April 2003, in a case that
underscores the continuing tensions between the U.S. and some longtime European
allies over the Iraq conflict.

The ruling, after more than two years of heated debate in Spain, threatens to
further strain U.S.-Spain relations already in tatters after the Socialist
government pulled its troops out of Iraq in April 2004.

The court order likely will have little effect on the soldiers, Sgt. Shawn
Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford, and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp. The U.S. doesn’t
extradite citizens, and the U.S. Army, following its own investigation, cleared
the soldiers of wrongdoing, concluding that they were under enemy fire.

Judge Santiago Pedraz of the High Court ruled in June that the three soldiers
were in violation of international law by willfully firing on civilians. He
decided to issue the international arrest warrant yesterday after two requests
to U.S. authorities for permission to question the soldiers went unanswered,
Spanish court officials said.

The court’s aspirations may be tripped up on a technicality. The court writ
names Sgt. Thomas Gibson of Alpha Company, though the gunner who was
investigated from that company of the 64th regiment is Sgt. Shawn Gibson. A
court spokeswoman said the error may have stemmed from prosecution documents,
and that the judge was traveling and unavailable for comment.

Officials at the State Department in Washington had no comment on the court
order. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid declined to comment.

Jose Couso, a cameraman for the private TV station Telecinco was killed by a
single tank round fired by advance elements of the 3rd Infantry Division
crossing the Tigris River as U.S. forces closed in on the Iraqi capital on April
8, 2003.

The soldiers said they were under sniper fire from Iraqi forces on the roof of
the Hotel Palestine, the base for foreign reporters during the invasion. Mr.
Couso and a Ukranian cameraman from Reuters were filming on a hotel balcony when
the tank round struck, killing both.

Judge Pedraz said in the ruling that foreign correspondents had gathered in the
hotel on the orders of the U.S. Defense Department, and that the soldiers knew
it was occupied by noncombatants.

The Spanish High Court agreed to study criminal charges against the soldiers in
October 2003, after a request from Mr. Couso’s family.

Mr. Couso’s death became a rallying point in Spanish demonstrations against the
war, which culminated with a pullout of the Spanish Plus Ultra brigade from
southern Iraq after the surprise Socialist Party election victory in March 2004.

Incidents in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq have sparked tensions
with other European allies as well. U.S. relations with Italy became strained
after an Italian intelligence agent was killed by U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint
near the Baghdad airport in March. Italy and the U.S. disagreed on the sequence
of events that led up to the incident and issued separate reports that blamed
each other for the outcome.

Another incident threatened to undermine relations with Britain, America’s
closest ally in Iraq, when Scottish soldiers were killed relieving U.S. troops
last year in the Sunni triangle west of Baghdad.

The wider U.S. war on terror also has triggered tensions with allies. This
summer, an Italian prosecutor issued 22 arrest warrants for Central Intelligence
Agency agents who allegedly kidnapped a radical Muslim cleric in Milan and
handed him over to Egyptian authorities, a practice known as “rendition.”

Xinhua General News Service
October 20, 2005 Thursday 11:00 PM EST
SECTION: WORLD NEWS; Political
HEADLINE: Spanish court orders arrest of US soldiers involved in cameraman’s death
DATELINE: MADRID

The Spanish High Court issued an international arrest warrant on Wednesday for three US soldiers, who fired a shell from their tank at a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war in 2003, killing Spanish cameraman Jose Couso.

“This arrest is the only effective way to ensure the presence of the accused before Spanish justice, given that no judicial cooperation has been offered by US authorities,” High Court judge Santiago Pedraz said in a ruling.

The three US soldiers were Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp, Captain Philip Wolford and Sergeant Thomas Gibson, all belonging to the US Army’s Third Infantry Division.

A day before the fall of Baghdad, their tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel that hosted foreign journalists covering the war.

Couso, who worked for the Spanish television network Telecinco, along with Reuters cameraman Taras Portsyuk, were killed in the incident.

Washington has defended that the three soldiers were justified in opening fire. But Madrid insists that the three be duly punished.

Pedraz said he had sent two requests for judicial assistance from the United States, one on April 21, 2004 for documentation, and the other on June 6 this year for Washington to take statements from the three suspects.

“Until now, we have received no response from the US authorities about the completion of either of the requests for help,” he said in the ruling.

Protests over the killing have been staged outside the US Embassy in Madrid almost every month since Couso’s death.

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