Arrest Bush! Canadians call for presidential scalp

US President George W. Bush on December 22, 2008. (AFP Photo/Yuri Gripas)
Will George Bush be arrested if he steps foot in Canada? The latest call from human rights groups to prosecute the former US President for allowing torture under his watch prove Bush is unable to shake the consequences of his much maligned war on terror.

Several human rights groups have called on the Canadian government to investigate former US President George Bush for authorizing torture. As Bush is scheduled to visit Canada later this month, the groups hope to set a precedent that even the highest level government officials are not above the law.

According to Human Rights Watch, there is “overwhelming evidence” that both Bush and other senior officials in his administration signed off on and ultimately executed a regime of torture which affected hundreds of detainees, including at least two Canadian citizens.They further stated that since the Obama administration has either been unable or unwilling to investigate the allegations, Canada is legally bound under the Convention against Torture to prosecute individuals who have been implicated in carrying out such acts.

“The US government’s refusal even to investigate Bush’s role in authorizing torture makes it all the more important that Canada take its obligation seriously,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Canada’s commitment to respecting human rights should not be put on hold when an ex-US president comes to visit,” according to a statement posed on the group’s official site.

Former President Bush is scheduled to visit Surrey, a medium-sized city in the westernmost Canadian province of British Columbia, on October 20.

Another prominent human rights group Amnesty International sent a memorandum to high ranking Canadian officials on September 21 outlining the basis on which Bush could legally be prosecuted.

According to the memorandum, between 2002 and 2009, the US Central Agency (CIA) subjected detainees being held in secret detention to enhanced interrogation techniques which constituted cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It continues that this program was authorized by then-President George Bush.

In an interview Bush gave to the Times of London last November, when asked if he had authorized the use of waterboarding, a form of torture which simulates the feeling of drowning, Bush told the daily “damn right. Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.”

The heavily edited 2004 CIA Inspector General Report on Torture also revealed that two of those individuals, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were potentially waterboarded some 266 times between 2002 and 2003.

Other techniques which former CIA director Michael Hayden admitted had been used at the time included locking detainees in a dark box for extended periods of time, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, slamming detainees into walls, and forcing them into stress positions which lead to pain and muscle failure.

Bush has also been accused of authorizing torture and secret detentions which occurred outside of the auspices of the CIA, most notably at Guantanamo Bay, as well as in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

The report goes on to state that George Bush, in a flagrant breach of international law, decided not to apply Geneva Convention protections to the Taliban or al-Qa’ida detainees.

Following Amnesty International, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent Canada’s minister of justice a draft indictment specifying the charges against Bush and the legal basis for prosecuting him.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Convention against Torture, which Canada ratified in 1987, states that any individual suspected to have been complicit in torture can be prosecuted regardless of the alleged victims’ citizenship if the suspected torturer is on Canadian territory. Conversely, the Canadian government has the legal right to prosecute an alleged torturer outside of Canada if one of the suspected victims is a Canadian citizen.

One such instance occurred when Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar was detained in New York while in route to Montreal on September 26, 2002. Arar, who was sent back to Syria via Jordan, claims that he was beaten repeatedly, whipped with a two-inch thick electric cable, interrogated for up to 18 hours a day, and confined in a small, dark cell for more than 10 months, Human Rights Watch reports. Although the Canadian government cleared Arar of all terror connections, the US government refused to acknowledge its role in his rendition and torture.

This isn’t the first time allegations of torture have dogged George Bush as he attempted to travel abroad. Last February, Bush was scheduled to attend a charity gala in Geneva, Switzerland. As rumors began to circulate that two individuals who had been detained and tortured during Bush’s tenure as president would file complaints against him, Bush ultimately decided to cancel the trip.