October 20, 2011, Surrey, BC –Today, as former U.S. president George W. Bush visits Surrey as a paid speaker at a regional economic summit, a Justice of the Peace in the British Columbia provincial court in Surrey accepted the sworn information submitted on behalf of four men who allege they were tortured under Bush’s command. The information, laid pursuant to section 504 of the Canadian criminal code, includes four counts of inflicting torture, contrary to section 269.1 of the code. The court set a hearing date for January 9, 2012.
The four men involved in the criminal complaint against Bush, Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz, each endured years of inhumane treatment including beatings, chaining to cell walls, being hung from walls or ceilings while handcuffed, lack of access to toilets, sleep, food and water-deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, sensory overload and deprivation, and other horrific and illegal treatment while in U.S. custody at military bases in Afghanistan and/or at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. While three of the plaintiffs have since been released without ever facing charges, Hassan Bin Attash still remains in detention at Guantánamo Bay, though he too has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing.
Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who is assisting the plaintiffs, remarked, “The confirmation of the information marks a crucial first step in holding George Bush accountable for the acts of torture for which he bears individual criminal responsibility as former President and Commander in Chief of the US military. We look forward to the opportunity to present the court with evidence establishing George Bush’s liability for torture.”
Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), who submitted the filing on the men’s behalf, added, “Today’s action confirms that the survivors of torture under the Bush administration will not stop in their efforts to seek justice. We are disappointed that the Attorney General of Canada refused our calls to take on the prosecution of Mr. Bush and violated Canada’s international obligations. These four men have now taken their own action to bring Mr. Bush to account.”
More than 50 human rights organizations from around the world and prominent individuals signed on to support the call for George W. Bush’s prosecution, including former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Theo van Boven and Manfred Nowak, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the Canadian-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. 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.
Last February, the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with other human rights organizations, attempted to initiate criminal proceedings against Bush during a private speaking engagement in Geneva, but he canceled after news of the planned prosecution came to light. Following the cancellation, CCR and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights released the “Bush Torture Indictment,” which can serve as the basis for country-specific indictments against Bush in any of the 147 countries that have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture or have universal jurisdiction laws for torture.
Prior to the filing of this case, CCR and the CCIJ twice (on Sept. 29, 2011 and Oct. 14, 2011) petitioned Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Robert Nicholson by letter to launch a criminal investigation against Bush during his October 20 visit to Canada, but received no response. George Bush and former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney both recently made trips to Canada, without any legal consequence.
A copy of the filing can be viewed in full here. The Letter of Support is available in English and French.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice. The CCIJ seeks to ensure that individuals present in Canada who are accused of responsibility for serious human rights violations are held accountable and their victims recognized, supported and compensated. For more information visit www.ccij.ca
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.
October 20, 2011