Former President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington on May 1, 2007. On February 7, 2011, when two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against Bush in Geneva, the former president abruptly canceled his February 12 trip to Switzerland. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)
Apparently, former president George W. Bush does "cut and run." On February 7, 2011, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against Bush in Geneva. Bush was due to speak there at a charity gala on February 12. On the eve of the case filing, Bush abruptly canceled his trip, choosing instead to attend the Super Bowl in Dallas. Why would he rather be in Dallas than in Geneva? For one thing, Swiss authorities are under a legal obligation to start a preliminary criminal investigation if a torturer is on Swiss soil. But, thanks to Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to apply US law to investigate torture, Bush isn't even breaking a sweat in Dallas - or anywhere in the US, for that matter.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, prepared the detailed case in Switzerland, with support from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Swiss law requires the presence of an alleged torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened. Because Bush cancelled, the complaints could not be filed, as the basis for legal jurisdiction no longer existed. However, the fact that Bush authorized torture remains, and it is harder than ever to hide now, on the ninth anniversary of his decision that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda or to so-called "unlawful combatants."
In the long run, ducking a charge of torture is not as easy as ducking a shoe thrown at a press conference. Accordingly, CCR publicly released the Preliminary Bush Torture Indictment. The indictment provides a strong factual and legal basis to hold Bush accountable - in any of the 147 countries which have ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) - for having authorized torture. In addition, the indictment compiles more than 2,500 pages of publicly available supporting material and has the support of two Nobel Peace Prize winners, more than 60 NGOs and two former UN special rapporteurs on torture and the independence of judges and lawyers.
In light of clear international law, broad international support and the evidence laid out in the indictment, it's no wonder Bush canceled his trip to Switzerland in order to evade the possibility of prosecution for torture. And of course, that's a major point of this aspect of international law: the perpetrators of torture crimes shouldn't be afforded safe haven. But another important question for us to consider as the rest of the world gets much smaller for Bush is, why is Holder comfortable with allowing him safe haven here in the United States?