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Bush Torture Indictment

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In 2011, CCR and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) lodged a detailed and lengthy indictment setting forth the case against former U.S. president George W. Bush with the Attorney General of Canada, urging him to open a criminal investigation against Bush for his role in authorizing and overseeing his administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush is scheduled to visit Surrey, British Columbia on October 20, 20111, as a paid speaker at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit at the invitation of Surrey Mayor Diane Watts. The Indictment, which was submitted with an Appendix consisting of over 4,000 pages of supporting material, details the grave evidence that former President Bush sanctioned and authorized acts of torture, which violates Canadian laws and the international treaties that Canada has ratified. Consequently, the Canadian government has both the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute George W. Bush if he sets foot in Canadian territory.  

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Speaks Out On Lawsuit Seeking Bush's Arrest in Canada for Torture from Democracy Now! on Vimeo.


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 September 29, 2011, CCR and CCJI delivered 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 as scheduled on October 20, 2011.  On October 14, 2011, CCR and CCIJ sent a second letter to the Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General, again urging him to prosecute Geore W. Bush and indicating they will file private prosecutions on behalf of torture survivors in advance of the visit. On October 20, 2011, CCR and CCJI lodged the Information with torture charges against George W. Bush with the Surrey Provincial Court in British Columbia and within only a few hours of the filing the Prosecutor moved to have the proceedings stayed. 
On April 20, 2012, CCR and CCIJ submitted a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which is set to review Canada's compliance with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture in May 2012.  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. 

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.

One hundred and forty-seven countries, including Canada and the United States, are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), meaning that those countries have committed to promptly investigate, prosecute, and punish torturers. While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the CAT, all other signatories are similarly obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory who they reasonably believe has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush indictment contends it does, and if the U.S. fails to request that Bush be extradited to face charges of torture, Canada must, under law, prosecute him for torture.

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.


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