Friday, November 12, 2010

If U.S. Won't Prosecute Bush, at Least 145 Other Countries Should

November 12, 2010

Translated By Sandrine Ageorges

Cerium, Montréal: One can't blame him for dodging his responsibility. In his autobiographical book Decision Points, which was released this week in the United States, former President George W. Bush not only admits - he boasts - of having authorized the practice known as waterboarding during interrogations of suspected members of al-Qaeda by the CIA.

The problem? Bush doesn't believe this method of "enhanced interrogation" to be torture. But the American administration - those that came before and after Bush's - as well as international

Has he then, with this confession, rendered himself vulnerable to criminal charges (and former Vice President Cheney as well, who said during an interview last February that he was a "staunch supporter of waterboarding")?

For the moment, the Obama Administration has refused to open the issue of the responsibility of Bush Administration officials for the use of torture, and the current president has specifically indicated that he will not pursue CIA staff who practiced torture, under the pretense they were operating with the authorization of the Justice Department, which had fallaciously told them that simulated drowning, among other things, was not torture.

The former president's statements have rekindled the debate and raise the pressure on the current president.

The organization Human Rights Watch, which counts 350 cases of torture and cruel treatment of detainees committed by 600 American troops and civilians, noted this Wednesday that the U.N. Convention Against Torture obliges its signatories, one of which is the United States, to prosecute persons responsible of torture, and is pressing the Obama Administration to initiate proceedings.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which is comprised of 290 churches, has called for a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter and accuses the former president of having "violated American and International law."


But if no action is taken against Bush in his home country, that opens the possibility of indictment in a third country.

A total of 145 other countries, including Canada, are signatories to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. And all signatories have committed to enforcing its provisions, even against offenders residing in other territories.

Therefore, with varying degrees of success, proceedings have been initiated in Spain and Belgium against foreign heads of state, notably the Chilean Pinochet. Water boarding is now considered a form of torture worldwide, and those responsible must be prosecuted.

Last week, The Washington Post quoted one of the authors of the U.N. convention, lawyer M. Cherif Boussiani of DePaul University, who is of the opinion that the former President's confession opens him up to such charges.

In fact, a court in Madrid last January opened proceedings against Bush advisors who wrote memos illegally authorizing the use of torture. The case is pending, but the issue was pursued precisely because no American authority took action against the officials responsible.

It's a safe bet that George W. Bush is now in the crosshairs of the Spain tribunal. If it were to condemn him, even in absentia, he would then be subject to the mutual extradition treaty in force among 24 European countries.

In other words, Bush couldn't travel to any of these countries without incurring the risk of being deported to Spain to serve out his sentence.

To be continued, and pursued! …


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