|© AFP/Getty Images/File Tom Pennington|
GENEVA (AFP) – Human rights groups vowed Monday to pursue George W. Bush wherever he travels, claiming that the former US president had cancelled a trip to Switzerland over fears that he could be probed for torture.
Bush was due to attend a fund-raising gala evening in Geneva this week, but organisers said Saturday that he had cancelled because of the risk of disturbances.
“The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide — this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next,” said Katherine Gallagher, an attorney and vice-president of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
“Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened,” said the FIDH, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Centre for Constitutional Rights.
“When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made (them) public and announced that the Bush torture indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next,” they added in a statement.
In his memoirs published last year, Bush claimed that use of the water boarding technique — which simulates drowning — had directly prevented terror attacks in Britain and the United States.
He also said in an interview with the British newspaper The Times it was “damn right” that he had authorised use of the controversial method on Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
“Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use,” said Gallagher.
“Torturers — even if they are former presidents of the United States — must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end.”
Gavin Sullivan, a lawyer at the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, added that Bush “bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the torture of thousands of individuals at places like Guantanamo and secret CIA ‘black sites’.
“As all states are obliged to prosecute such torturers, Bush has good reason to be very worried,” he said.
Human Rights Watch said in New York that the US authorities themselves should be pursuing Bush.
“The US government should take the lead to investigate former US President George W. Bush and other senior officials for authorizing torture of terrorism suspects rather than leaving prosecutions to other countries,” the organization said.
“The US government needs to demonstrate that no official, including an ex-president, is above the law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.