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Torture victims target Bush's Surrey visit

Four survivors of torture will lodge a private prosecution in B.C. Provincial Court tomorrow against former U.S. president George W. Bush. Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz all say that they endured years of torture during Bush's controversial tenure presiding over the so-called War on Terror.

Bush is scheduled to appear on Oct. 20 as a paid speaker at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit, together with his fellow ex-president Bill Clinton. Critics around the world have characterized Bush as a war criminal and called for his arrest while he is in Canada.

"I lost my family, my father, my health, my education because of George Bush. Although I was completely innocent, I lost nearly 10 years of my life," said former Guantanamo detainee and torture survivor Muhammed Khan Tumani. "I suffered greatly while detained at Guantanamo, and continue to suffer. I have restrictions on my travel and cannot travel to see my father who is ill. George Bush must face justice and be held accountable for his actions, which continue to cause me and so many harm."

On Sept. 29, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ ) submitted a 69-page page draft indictment to Canada's Attorney General Robert Nicholson, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material, setting forth the case against Bush for torture.

The indictment, incorporated into the criminal information to be lodged Oct. 20, contends that by Bush's own admission he sanctioned and authorized acts that constitute torture under the Canadian criminal code and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Minister Nicholson has not responded to the organizations' call for Bush's arrest.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, quoted in a press release from the CCR and CCIJ, said: "The main aim of the UN Convention Against Torture was to eradicate safe havens for persons who commit, order, or participate in acts of torture worldwide. States parties to the Convention, including Canada, have a legal obligation to arrest all persons suspected of torture with the aim of bringing them to justice. There is plenty of evidence that President Bush authorized enhanced interrogation methods against suspected terrorists, some of which clearly amount to torture, such as waterboarding."

Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, who will submit the filing on behalf of the men, added, "Canadian law could not be clearer. If an alleged torturer is present in Canada, the government has the power to prosecute. As a signatory of the Convention Against Torture, Canada has an obligation to initiate an investigation when Mr. Bush sets foot in this country."

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected].

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