Lawyers Against the War

Press Release : Canada Blocks Torture Charges against Bush. December 8th 2004

The Canadian government used a claim of diplomatic immunity Monday to block torture charges laid under the Canadian Criminal Code against President George W. Bush. The charges had been laid by Gail Davidson of Lawyers against the War--LAW on the occasion of Bush’s visit to Canada on November 30. They concerned the well-known abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, photos of which shocked the world earlier this year, as well as similar abuses at Guantánamo Bay that have emerged more recently. On behalf of LAW, Davidson was seeking to set a date for a hearing into the charges and came armed with evidence, but Judge William Kitchen acceded to the Attorney General’s objections and declared the charges ‘a nullity’.

“Of course, they’re not a nullity”, said Professor Michael Mandel, co-chair of LAW, who criticized the decision as “irregular in procedure and wrong in substance.” “These charges were properly laid and backed up by powerful evidence, which nobody denies or can deny. Diplomatic or sovereign immunity is purely procedural; it doesn’t affect the validity of the charges, only whether they can be proceeded with, for the time being, in a foreign court, in this case a Canadian court. Even if Bush has immunity, it’s only temporary and won’t shield him or anyone in his administration from Canadian law when they leave office. That the Canadian government would try to hush this up by hiding Bush behind diplomatic immunity was to be expected: Martin invited him here to ingratiate himself with the President, despite the President’s crimes against our laws and international law, despite even his inadmissibility as a war criminal under Canada’s immigration laws – above all, despite the unending human disaster the President’s ‘war of choice’ has brought to the people of Iraq.”

Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson, who laid the charges, said “We have a lot of objections to the way these charges were handled. We can’t see the legal basis for excluding the press and the public—for sealing the courtroom. We think the claim of immunity was premature and exaggerated, and the quashing of the charges not authorized by the law. We are considering our options, including an appeal of the decision. One thing we will do for sure is pursue similar charges in Germany as part of the prosecution launched there by the American Center for Constitutional Rights. There is reason to think that the German authorities will show more backbone in the face of the Bush administration’s trashing of international human rights law.”

LAW is an international group of jurists based in Canada with members in 14 countries

 Michael Mandel, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, 4700
 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3. Tel: 416 736-5039, Fax:
 416-736-5736, Email:

 Gail Davidson, Tel: 604 738 0338; Fax: 604 736 1175, Email:

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Posted Gerald and Maas Night's Lantern, Dec. 8, 2004
Lawyers Against the War Sept. 27, 2005