Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Human Rights Groups Announce Bush Indictment For Convention Against Signatory States

No Immunity For Former Presidents Under Law


Today, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints, with more than 2,500-pages of supporting material, in Geneva against former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was due to speak at an event there on 12 February. Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened. When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made it public and announced that the Bush Torture Indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next. The Indictment serves as the basis on which to prepare country-specific, plaintiff-specific indictments, with additional evidence and updated information. According to international law experts at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

“Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide – this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end.”

While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture to prosecute and punish those who commit torture, all other signatories, too, are obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory they have a reasonable basis for believing has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush Torture Indictment contends it does, and the U.S. fails to request the extradition of Bush and others to face charges of torture there, CAT signatories must, under law, prosecute them for torture.

In a statement this weekend, the groups who organized the complaints said, “Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear – If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans.”

The complaints that had been scheduled to be filed on Monday asked that the General Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva investigate allegations that men were tortured as part of the Bush administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush proudly recounted in his recently published memoir that when asked in 2002 to if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture – he replied “damn right.”

Monday, 7 February, is the ninth anniversary of the day Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to ‘enemy combatants.’

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Bush Torture Indictment

Synopsis

On February 7, 2011, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against former president George W. Bush in Geneva, who was due to speak at an event there on February 12th. On the eve of the filing of the complaints, George Bush cancelled his trip. Swiss law requires the presence of the alleged torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be open. The complaints could not be filed after Bush cancelled, as the basis for jurisdiction no longer existed.

These two complaints are part of a larger effort to ensure accountability for torturers, including former U.S. officials. So on February 7, 2011, CCR publically released the "Preliminary Bush Torture Indictment." This document presents fundamental aspects of the case against George Bush for torture, and a preliminary legal analysis of his liability for torture and a response to some anticipated defenses. This document will be updated as developments warrant. The exhibit list contains references to more than 2,500 pages of supporting material.

Status

The Preliminary Bush Torture Indictment was prepared so that it could be used for individual victims to file cases against George Bush in any country where the Convention Against Torture provides jurisdiction.

Description

There is global support for the victims of torture under the Bush administration to seek justice and accountability. CCR worked with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights to prepare the case in Switzerland, and had support from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The individual complaints that were set to be filed in Geneva on February 7, 2011 were supported by a letter from more than 60 human rights organizations and prominent individuals calling for the prosecution of George W. Bush for torture, including former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients Shirin Ebadi and Pérez Esquivel. A number of the human rights organizations which signed on are facing the on-going harms of the “counterterrorism” policies advanced under the Bush administration and then adopted or employed in their own countries.
Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2004-2010), was to submit an expert opinion on the complaints concluding that the conduct to which both plaintiffs were subjected constitutes torture, that Switzerland had an obligation to open a preliminary investigation, and that George W. Bush enjoys no immunity.

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