Interrogation: Abuses

U.N. Complaint Over Failure to Prosecute George W. Bush Filed---Against Canada

By Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, November 18, 2012, 3:36 PM

No, you didn't read that wrong. And no, this isn't an episode of South Park.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Canadian Centre for International Justice have filed a complaint with the Geneva-based U.N. Committee Against Torture---which oversees compliance with the Torture Convention---over Canada's failure to prosecute former President Bush for torture. Last year, four former Guantanamo Bay detainees filed a criminal complaint  in Canada alleging torture against the former American president. On behalf of the four former detainees, the two human rights groups issued a draft indictment, which is available here. Their court filing itself is available here. Nobody was too shocked, however, when authorities in Vancouver didn't leap to jail Bush. Later on, the groups issued a report on the Bush case to the committee. And now they have filed a complaint with the Committee on Torture, arguing that:

Canada’s refusal to initiate an investigation and prosecution of Mr. Bush upon his arrival in Canada and the decision of the Attorney General of [British Columbia] to immediately stay the private proceedings brought against him by the Complainants has caused harm to the Complainants.

The Complainants request that the Committee find Canada in breach of its obligations under the Convention, and specifically that Canada breached its obligations under Articles 5 (2), 6 (1) and 7 (1) of the Torture Convention.

The Complainants further request that the Committee seek an explanation of the actions taken by the various federal and provincial officials involved in the decisions not to initiate an investigation against Mr. Bush and to stay the private prosecution lodged against him.

More broadly, Canada must be called upon to review its policies concerning the Convention and the torture provision of the Criminal Code, as well as its procedures for dealing with torture suspects present in Canadian territory, and make any changes to its procedures to ensure that its officials place priority on fulfilling Canada’s obligations under the Torture Convention. In this regard, the Complainants recall the recent statement by the Committee in its Concluding Observations in relation to Canada’s compliance with its obligations under Article 5. Such changes should include a review of the level of funding allocated to universal jurisdiction prosecutions.

Should Mr. Bush return to Canada, the government must be urged by the Committee to set aside political considerations and take the appropriate legal steps to initiate criminal proceedings and hold him accountable if the facts and law so require.