Canada: Bush Torture Indictment

At a Glance

Current Status 

The petition against Canada was filed in November 2012. Canada and the victims, through CCR, have filed initial and supplemental briefs on jurisdiction and the merits with the Committee Against Torture.  The petition is pending. 

Date Filed: 

October 20, 2011

Co-Counsel 

Canadian Centre for International Justice

Case Description 

One hundred and fifty-five countries, including Canada and the United States, are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). Those countries have committed to investigating, prosecuting and punishing torturers.

In an effort to ensure accountability for torturers and hold the U.S to its obligations under CAT, in 2011 the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCJI) lodged a detailed indictment against former U.S president George W. Bush with the attorney General of Canada, on behalf of four torture victims who had been detained by the U.S.

CCR urged the attorney general to open a criminal investigation against Bush, who was scheduled to visit Surrey, British Columbia, for his role in authorizing and overseeing his administration’s wide ranging and well-documented use of torture. These methods included, but were not limited to water boarding, sleep deprivation, physical violence, and solitary confinement. As Canada failed to initiate proceedings against Bush, four torture victims lodged a private prosecution against Bush, while he was present in Canada, on October 20, 2011. Canadian officials moved to immediately close the case against Bush.

On November 2012, a petition was lodged with the Committee Against Torture against Canada for its failure to uphold its treaty obligations to investigate and prosecute Bush while he was in Canada.  Over the next two years, CCR, on behalf of the torture victims, and Canada, submitted briefs addressing both admissibility of the petition (standing of the victims, exhaustion of domestic remedies) and the merits (Canada’s failure to investigate and prosecute Bush following claims and evidence of a credible case for torture being brought).  The case is currently pending before the Committee.  

Case Timeline

July 17, 2014
Petitioners submit a response to Canada's supplemental submission
July 17, 2014
Petitioners submit a response to Canada's supplemental submission
May 12, 2014
George W. Bush arrives in Canada
May 12, 2014
George W. Bush arrives in Canada
May 8, 2014
CCR and CCIJ submit an urgent letter to the UN CAT, advising them of George W. Bush's planned May 12, 2014 visit to Toronto, Canada
May 8, 2014
CCR and CCIJ submit an urgent letter to the UN CAT, advising them of George W. Bush's planned May 12, 2014 visit to Toronto, Canada
April 10, 2014
Canada files a response to Petitioners' reply
April 10, 2014
Canada files a response to Petitioners' reply
January 7, 2014
UN CAT Acknowledges CCR and CCIJ’s reply to Canada’s response
January 7, 2014
UN CAT Acknowledges CCR and CCIJ’s reply to Canada’s response
December 30, 2013
Petitioners files a reply to Canada's response
December 30, 2013
Petitioners files a reply to Canada's response
Petitioners maintain that the Communication is admissible, in that it asserts Canada violations of Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the Convention Against Torture, and the petitioners – as victims of torture who sought to initiate proceedings in Canada – and their complaint fall within Canada’s jurisdiction. Petitioners assert Canada confuse standing and jurisdiction. Petitioners set forth in detail Canada’s violations of the Convention, in failing to exercise universal jurisdiction, failing to properly examine the information provided against Bush and initiate a preliminary inquiry, and failing to submit the case against Bush to the competent authorities for prosecution.
October 2013
Canada files its response to the UN CAT
October 2013
Canada files its response to the UN CAT
Canada does 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 argues 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. Additionally, Canada argues 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.”
January 22, 2013
The UN CAT informs the plaintiffs that the complaint has been registered with the Committee, and a copy has been communicated to Canada for its response
January 22, 2013
The UN CAT informs 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.
November 14, 2012
On behalf of four torture survivors, CCR and CCIJ files a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture
November 14, 2012
On behalf of four torture survivors, CCR and CCIJ files a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture
The complaint is filed for Canada’s failure to investigate and prosecute former U.S. President George W. Bush during his October 2011 visit to British Columbia. This filing is the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official is filed with the U.N. Committee.
April 20, 2012
CCR and CCIJ submit a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in advance of its review of Canada's compliance with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture
April 20, 2012
CCR and CCIJ submit a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in advance of its review of Canada's compliance with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture
The report sets forth Canada's failure to comply with its obligations to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Bush during his visit to Canada in October 2011, after it was presented with a draft indictment and supporting materials setting forth the legal and factual basis for a case of torture. The report calls upon the Committee to investigate the role of various Canadian officials in deciding against initiating an investigation against Bush and to make strong recommendations to ensure that signatories of CAT abide by their obligations under the Convention to prosecute torturers present in their territory so as to further the Convention's aim of ending impunity for torture.
October 24, 2011
Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General notifies CCR and CCIJ a letter staying the case
October 24, 2011
Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General notifies CCR and CCIJ a letter staying the case
October 14, 2011
CCR and CCIJ send a second letter to the Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General
September 29, 2011
CCR and CCJI deliver a letter and Indictment to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, urging him to prosecute George W. Bush for crimes of torture if he travels to Canada
September 29, 2011
CCR and CCJI deliver a letter and Indictment to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, urging him to prosecute George W. Bush for crimes of torture if he travels to Canada
Bush is scheduled to visit Canada on October 20, 2011