The Net Tightens on George W. Bush

During George W. Bush's reign as U.S. president the CIA routinely used Shannon airport as they crisscrossed the world kidnapping and torturing. Bush has admitted that he personally authorised waterboarding, which is an act of torture and a crime under U.S. and international law. To date nothing has been done in the U.S. to investigate the circumstances in which torture was used by the Bush administration. Similarly nothing has been done in Ireland to investigate why and how Shannon was made available to the torture crews.

Bush claimed that the use of waterboarding "saved lives". However as Philippe Sands QC professor of law at University College London and author of Torture Team said in a Guardian article last November there is not a shred of evidence to support that claim. It is a claim, as Sands says, that falls into the same category as the bogus intelligence relied on to justify war in Iraq.

On February 7 two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against Bush in Geneva, to coincide with his arrival to speak at an event there on February 12th.  On the eve of the filing of the complaints, Bush cancelled his trip.  Swiss law requires the presence of the alleged torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be open however, so the complaints could not be filed after Bush cancelled as the basis for jurisdiction no longer existed.

These two complaints are now part of a larger effort to ensure accountability for torturers, including former U.S. officials. On Monday February 7 the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York released the "Preliminary Bush Torture Indictment."   This document presents fundamental aspects of the case against George Bush for torture, and a preliminary legal analysis of his liability for torture and a response to some anticipated defenses. The exhibit list contains references to more than 2,500 pages of supporting material.

The Bush Torture Indictment, the official "letter of denunciation" summarizing the case and other materials are available here.

In addition to filing the first cases representing men detained at Guantánamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights has also filed universal jurisdiction cases seeking accountability for torture by Bush administration officials in Germany and France. It has also submitted expert opinions and other documentation to ongoing cases in Spain in collaboration with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is quoted on as saying "Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use," She went on to explain "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."

Bush had ultimate responsibility for authorizing the torture of thousands of people in Guantánamo and secret CIA black sites around the world.  All states are obliged to prosecute such torturers and Ireland is no exception. It has ratified the Convention Against Torture and has enacted the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. The main purporse of this Act was to create statutory offence of torture with extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Shannonwatch will be working with others to ensure that this Act is called into effect if George W. Bush ever sets foot in Ireland.

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