Spanish Judge Issues Warrant for Three GIs

A Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant for three American soldiers who accidentally killed a Spanish cameraman in Iraq in 2003.

Spanish Judge Issues Warrant for Three GIs (AP)

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 one other, 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.

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 several journalists were staying to cover the war. Reuters cameraman Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian, also was killed.

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

Clearly, American soldiers are not answerable to Spanish courts for actions that occured in Iraq. My knowledge of the Spanish legal system is minimal but one presumes this will be reversed by saner heads.

There is zero question of criminal intent on the part of the soldiers here. Even aside from the fact that they have been cleared by other investigations, the rationale for intentionally killing allied journalists in the midsts of a then-smashing victory is hard to fathom.

That said, I can understand why Spain would be frustrated by the inability to conduct their own thorough investigation of the matter. There are, however, no simple solutions. Giving individual state courts the authority to indict foreign soldiers for actions in a third state is a non-starter. Having a pre-established international tribunal is theoretically quite reasonable. Unfortunately, that would only work if membership were limited to states with established traditions of democracy and rule of law. That, too, would seem a non-starter.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Europe, Iraq War, United Nations, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Frank says:

    “My knowledge of the Spanish legal system is minimal but one presumes this will be reversed by saner heads”

    No way James, these guys went after Pinochet when he visited London. They had him under house arrest for months, if not a couple of years, if I remember correctly. Only by the grace of god and Margaret Thatcher was he allowed to go back to Chile…Now these guys are going to have to watch their ass whenever they set foot outside of the states. On a side note, it is my belief that spanish judges are out of control and should be put in their place. However, their actions are popular w/ the public and thus putting an end to it will be very difficult.

  2. whatever says:

    Why can’t Americans also get pissed off? Recall the U.S. ambassador, close all imports of whatever is imported from Spain (we buy anything from them? Do they make anything unique other than a few wines?), boycott those few Spanish goods that are already in inventory here.

    While they are free to rattle off whatever legal opinions they want, we are free to let them know that actions have consequences.

  3. LJD says:

    At least the Spanish haven’t taken any investigation pointers from Communist Italians….

  4. James:

    Clearly, American soldiers are not answerable to Spanish courts for actions that occured in Iraq.

    I completely agree with whatever‘s comments above. In fact, I don’t think it unreasonable for saner elements within the Spanish populace to rise up and terminate Judge Santiago Pedraz with prejudice.

    Before you make another big stink about this type of comment, honestly ask yourself if you really disagree with me on this, or are just doing it because you cave in to the thought police.

    Both ideas, and actions, have consequences.