With Barack Obama refusing to allow the investigation, let alone the prosecution, of CIA employees or Bush Administration officials for our torture program, human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on Canada to fulfill international obligations and arrest George Bush on his planned visit to that country.
Groups like Human Rights Watch are citing “overwhelming evidence” that both Bush and other senior officials in his administration carried out a torture program and thus committed alleged war crimes. They note that Canada is legally bound under the Convention against Torture to prosecute individuals who have been implicated in carrying out such acts. Of course, that responsibility rests first and foremost with Obama and his administration, but the President has made it clear that this is not a convenient or optimal time for such action. Soon after taking office, Obama made clear that he would not allow any prosecution of a CIA employee for torture — a position he later expressed in a speech at the CIA. Later, his Administration refused to appoint a special or independent counsel to look at other possible targets and then issued a much ridiculed rationale for not prosecuting anyone for the torture program. As noted in recent columns, many Democrats have rationalized this clear violation of international law by noting that it would only serve to divide the country — the very argument used by countries like Syria to refuse to investigate war criminals. Such investigations are never convenient or popular. This is why countries had to come together and agree that, regardless of the time or popularity, they would fulfill their responsibilities under these treaties.
Previously, the public was informed by Wikileaks that the Obama Administration put great pressure on Spain to scuttle the work of its previously independent judiciary to investigate Bush officials. No doubt it is putting the same pressure on the Canadians. Some Canadians however may be reluctant to adopt the position of the U.S. that these laws should apply to other countries. We have already seen groups like the Taliban and countries like China cite our own inaction (here) on torture to dismiss any statement from the United States on human rights.