Two rights organizations filed an indictment [text, PDF; case materials] against former US president George W Bush [JURIST news archive] with the Canada Department of Justice [official website] on Thursday accusing him of commissioning a torture program during his time in office. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed the same complaint earlier this year [JURIST report] in Geneva, Switzerland, forcing Bush to cancel a planned speaking engagement there, although for this suit they are joined with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) [advocacy website]. Representatives of the CCR and CCIJ called for international accountability against the former president [press release], and for Canada to exercise its justice system:
Canada has a strong legal framework and there is absolutely no ambiguity in our criminal code when it comes to committing or allowing torture. There is grave evidence that former President Bush sanctioned and authorized acts of torture, not only in violation of Canadian laws, but also of international treaties that Canada has ratified. It is therefore clear that our government has both the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute Bush should he set foot again on Canadian territory.The groups allege a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture [text] and accuse Bush of sanctioning enforced disappearances and secret detention as well as a variety of acts of torture, including: "exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation, punching, kicking, isolation in 'coffin' cells for prolonged periods, threats of bad treatment, solitary confinement and forced nudity." Bush is scheduled to speak in Canada on October 20. Neither he nor the Canadian Justice Department have commented on the charges.
Several human rights groups have urged investigations into alleged detainee abuses authorized by the Bush administration. This summer, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration to begin a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into alleged detainee abuses authorized by Bush following the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. Other calls to investigate the criminal culpability of Bush and officials in his administration have been rejected consistently by US officials [JURIST report]. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged US Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Bush for violation of the federal statute prohibiting torture. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive] also faced possible criminal charges, when, in 2007, a war crimes complaint was filed against him [JURIST report] in Germany for his involvement in detainee treatment. The case was later dismissed [JURIST report]. In June 2010, the ACLU called on the Obama administration to stop shielding Bush administration officials [JURIST report] from civil suit and criminal prosecution in relation to the treatment of detainees in US custody.