Former president George W. Bush has reportedly raked in millions of dollars on the speaking circuit, and tomorrow he heads to British Columbia, Canada for another speaking event. And, it looks like he will come and go with utter impunity.
Something about that sounds wrong. In fact, it is wrong: Canada, as a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, has a legal responsibility to arrest, investigate and prosecute (or extradite for prosecution to a willing country) anyone suspected of torture. So, it would seem that a Bush visit north of the border would prompt Canadian authorities to slap the former president with an arrest warrant.
Bush, after all, authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding, during the CIA’s secret detention program. He’s even admitted to personally approving the use of torture. Yet, in all likelihood, the only thing he will get out of this trip will be a six-figure paycheck.
President Obama is fond of “teachable moments,” but the only lesson to be learned from this episode is that the world continues to turn a blind eye to torture and other grave human rights violations. More than two years ago, President Obama decided that his administration would not prosecute George W. Bush.
Since President Obama refuses to bring the former president to justice, it becomes incumbent on other countries to step in. Articles 5 and 7 of the Convention Against Torture explicitly provide for universal jurisdiction (the principle that all countries have an obligation to investigate torture suspects found on their territory, regardless of where the torture was committed) to ensure that nobody gets away with torture.
What makes this all the more disappointing is that Canada has been a leader in efforts to strengthen the international justice system. Embracing George W. Bush with open arms would discredit that legacy, running afoul of accountability, of justice, of right and wrong.
Canada: you’ve got a few days left to show the world that no one is above the law. Please do so, before Bush gets away not only with torture, but also with pockets full of cash.