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Joaquin and Goliath

The news that Spain could open an investigation on Guantanamo has sparked a media storm in Europe and the United States.

The document filed in the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s national court, urging an investigation of six former Bush administration officials for devising the legal framework for torture in the island’s detention center, has experts on both sides of the Atlantic debating matters of jurisdiction, politics and international law.

Who’s behind the case? The lawyers who prepared the document do not represent victims, but a small citizens’ group — the Association Pro Dignity of Prisoners.

The group, which has about 20 members, was created in 2005 when Joaquin Rodriguez Suarez, a criminologist and prison official, retired.

“After more than 40 years working in prisons, I thought somebody had to speak up for the dignity of prisoners,” explained the 73-year-old Rodriguez.

In a phone conversation, he said he believes universal jurisdiction should be applied to investigate the abuses of prisoners in Guantanamo, adding, “With the arrival of Obama, the environment and the time looked more favorable to present a case like this.”

He hopes the case will move forward, in spite of the opposition from Spain’s attorney general and the national court’s chief prosecutor. “Judge Garzon is not a coward. The important thing is that he opens proceedings in this case,” he said. He finds Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido’s comments that the claim is fraudulent “insulting.”

He is not “too surprised” by the wide news coverage of this issue in America. “The U.S. is a big country, there are dark things happening there, but also people are very interested in defending human rights, and the media there reflect this.”