Swiss Lawsuit Charges George W. Bush With Torture

I’ve been saying for a long time now that former President Bush and his accomplices are subject to prosecution abroad for violation of the internationally accepted rule against torture. If memory serves, there have been abortive attempts by state authorities to bring such cases in Belgium, Germany and France, and there is a stop-and-start effort still going on in Spain. Now the shoe drops in Switzerland, in the form of a a criminal complaint, as reported by the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Today, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints, with more than 2,500-pages of supporting material, in Geneva against former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was due to speak at an event there on 12 February. Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened. When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made it public and announced that the Bush Torture Indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next. The Indictment serves as the basis on which to prepare country-specific, plaintiff-specific indictments, with additional evidence and updated information. According to international law experts at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

“Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “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.”

While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture to prosecute and punish those who commit torture, all other signatories, too, are obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory they have a reasonable basis for believing has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush Torture Indictment contends it does, and the U.S. fails to request the extradition of Bush and others to face charges of torture there, CAT signatories must, under law, prosecute them for torture.

In a statement this weekend, the groups who organized the complaints said, “Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear – If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans.”

The complaints that had been scheduled to be filed on Monday asked that the General Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva investigate allegations that men were tortured as part of the Bush administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush proudly recounted in his recently published memoir that when asked in 2002 to if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture – he replied “damn right.”

Monday, February 7, is the ninth anniversary of the day Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to ‘enemy combatants.’

According to the Bush Indictment, which was written on behalf of torture victims by CCR and ECCHR, former President Bush bears individual and command responsibility for the acts of his subordinates which he ordered, authorized, condoned or otherwise aided and abetted, as well as for the violations committed by his subordinates which he failed to prevent or punish.

“Bush is a torturer and deserves to be remembered as such,” said Gavin Sullivan, Solicitor and Counterterrorism Program Manager, ECCHR. “He bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the torture of thousands of individuals at places like Guantánamo and secret CIA ‘black sites’ around the world. As all states are obliged to prosecute such torturers, Bush has good reason to be very worried.”

Bush recently canceled a planned trip to Switzerland this week, claiming it was due to fear that demonstrations would get out of control.

I do not know anything about Swiss criminal procedure, and in particular what options the state prosecutor may have to choose not to investigate, or to quash, a complaint. It would be good to know.

[headline corrected]

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7 Responses to Swiss Lawsuit Charges George W. Bush With Torture

  1. Just me says:

    It would have been curious to see what would have happened if the former President had gone on his trip anyways. In particular, would a foreign government (any foreign government) attempt to arrest a former U.S. President for official government actions?

    This is especially interesting given that I seem to recall that Bush’s Secret Service detail will end in 2019 (past Presidents had Secret Service protection for life). Once he is no longer under the Secret Service’s care, will governments be more willing to put him in the clink while he is acting the tourist on the Swiss Alps?

  2. James in LA says:

    He does not need to got to Switzerland. He need only step foot inside Vermont. His own countrymen have turned on him, and it’s time for the DoJ to begin seating grand juries, beginning with a reading of all the laws passed in Vermont calling for the arrest of this war criminal, and why.

    Once the discovery door is smashed open, it will be much more than torture staring back at us.

  3. Socipat says:

    If you think Obama or any other prez would let a foriegn power arrest as former prez for official goverment action, your nuts. The ability to conduct foriegn policy would be impossible. All it would take is a p.o.ed Muslim accusing the prez for “Air Raiding Innocent Children” and by by the ability to defend ourselfs as well as the ability to conduct foriegn policy. And rember it’s Obama doing the Air Raiding now, as well as countinueing the Bush policy on the war on terror. Arrest Bush and Obama must start a war to get him back, or possible face the same charges himself.

  4. TrickyDick says:

    Lets arrest him for Treason First(amongst other things)! WE’ll extradite him after he serves his time!!

  5. free emr says:

    I wonder what would had happened to the ex pres if the trip went through. I assume the government are aware of this. Thanks for the nice post. Looking forward for updates.

  6. Tyrone says:


    Ok let me be clear! The Republicans are saying that under President G.W. Bush! Bush directed the CIA to water board three terrorist in 2003! Received information that would have led to the capture and killing of Bin Laden! BUT DID NOTHING! In 2003… 2004…2005…2006…2007…2008! NOTHING DONE TO CAPTURE BIN LADEN!!!! So the Republican are saying Bush is a criminal and should be arrested! Today after President Obama making the capture and or killing of Bin Laden a priority! Under leadership of President Obama what Bush didn‘t get done. Bin Laden was capture and killed under the leadership of President Obama. The Republicans want to give credit to water boarding and G.W. Bush! HOW??? Do the Republican remember G.W. Bush statement about Bin Laden? He stating in a interview that Bin Laden was not a concern. Bush also said he didn’t know where Bin Laden was! Eleven months before 9/11 the CIA informed Bush. That Bin Laden was planning a attack on America! Bush replied” I don’t swat flies”! So really? By the statement made by Republicans! The Republican are calling for the arrest of former President G.W. Bush! They are also saying Bush was incompetent as President and should be in prison! He knew the whereabouts of Bin Laden and did nothing in five in a half years! The most dangerous terrorist on earth! Responsible for two wars 3,000 plus American deaths on 9/11! Many many other attacks on Americans and Muslim! Yet Bush does nothing in 2003…2004…2005…2006…2007…2008…Yet today Republicans want to give credit to the worse President in America’s history! Who did nothing but start a war in Iraq for NOTHING! Causing the needless deaths of American troops for NOTHING!

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