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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.
On November 14, 2012 on behalf of four torture survivors, CCR and CCIJ filed a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture for the country’s failure to investigate and prosecute former President George W. Bush during his 2011 visit to British Columbia. This filing marked the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official has been filed with the U.N. Committee.
On January 22, 2013, the UN CAT informed the plaintiffs that the complaint has been registered with the Committee, and a copy has been communicated to Canada for its response.
Canada's response both on the admissibility of the complaint and the merits was due July 22, 2013. CCR and CCIJ were informed that Canada requested an extension of time to submit its observations, and such an extension was granted, with the new due date of September 23, 2013. Canada failed to respond to the Committee by that date, and the Committee has sent an official reminder to Canada to respond.
Canada filed its response to the Committee in October 2013. Canada did not argue that Bush enjoyed any immunity under law as a former Head of State or that the allegations of torture against him were frivolous or politically motivated. Canada argued that it was justified in exercising discretion not to pursue an investigation or prosecution of Bush because, practically, the Canadian authorities would not get the necessary assistance from the United States. Canada argued that any evidence “of torture by the U.S. government resides, for the most part, within the very center of the U.S. administration and with present and former U.S. officials residing in the United States.”
On December 30, 2013, Petitioners filed a reply to Canada's response.
On April 10, 2014, Canada filed a response to Petitioners' reply.
On May 8, 2014, CCR and CCIJ submitted an urgent letter to the UN Committee against Torture, advising them of George W. Bush's planned May 12, 2014 visit to Tortonto, Canada.
On July 17, 2014, Petitioners submitted a response to Canada's supplemental submission.
On October 23, 2014, Canada submitted a brief response to Petitioners' May and July submissions.
There is global support for the victims of torture under the Bush administration to seek justice and accountability.
In September 2011, CCR partnered with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and submitted a letter and Indictment to Canada’s Attorney General, urging him to prosecute George W. Bush for crimes of torture if he travels to Canada as scheduled on October 20, 2011. According to the Indictment, former President Bush bears individual and command responsibility for the acts of his subordinates, which he ordered, authorized, condoned, or otherwise aided and abetted, as well as for violations committed by his subordinates, which he failed to prevent or punish. In particular, Bush is alleged to have authorized or overseen enforced disappearance and secret detention, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation, punching, kicking, isolation in “coffin” cells for prolonged periods, threats of bad treatment, solitary confinement, and forced nudity.
In February 2011, 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.