Bill Quigley is a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans.
Justice for George W’s torture violations jumped much closer this weekend. Ex-President George W Bush was supposed to fly to Switzerland to speak in Geneva February 15. But his speech was cancelled over the weekend because of concerns about protests and efforts by human rights organizations asking Swiss prosecutors to charge Bush with torture and serve him with an arrest warrant.
Two things made this possible. Switzerland allows the prosecution of human rights violators from other countries if the violator is on Swiss soil and George W admitted he authorized water boarding detainees in his recent memoir. Torture is internationally banned by the Convention Against Torture.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights prepared criminal complaints with more than 2500 pages of supporting material to submit to the Swiss prosecutor. These criminal complaints were signed by more than 60 human rights organizations world wide and by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients Shirin Ebadi and Perez Esquivel.
Amnesty International, which has repeatedly called for criminal investigation of torture by GWB, sent Swiss prosecutors a detailed legal and factual analysis of President Bush’s criminal responsibility for torture.
While some traditionalists in the human rights community scoff at the notion that GWB and others will ever be held accountable for their violations, experts disagree.
"Nobody – from those who administered the practices to those at the top of the chain of command – is under a shield of absolute immunity for the practices of secret detention, extraordinary rendition and torture," Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on human rights and professor of public international law at the European University Institute told The Guardian. "Legally this case is quite clear. Bush does not enjoy immunity as a former head of state, and he has command responsibility for the decisions that were taken."
Similar efforts to prosecute former President Bush, former Bush lawyers Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay Bybee, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, David Addington, and Douglas J Feith are proceeding in Spain.
All of these international efforts to seek justice for the human rights violations committed by the Bush administration are possible only because the US has refused to prosecute – another disappointment by the Obama administration.
Ironically, February 7 is the ninth anniversary of the date when GWB unilaterally decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants. GWB denied, as most facing criminal charges do, that the possibility of prosecution was involved at all in the decision to cancel his trip.
The human rights community promised to pursue Bush and the other human rights violators whenever they leave the US. Katherine Gallagher and Claire Tixiere, the lead lawyers authoring the 2500 page criminal case in Geneva stated: “The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide – this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end.”
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