Switzerland: Visit of ex-President Bush to Geneva: Which obligations for Switzerland?
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - the principle coalition of
anti-torture organizations – recalled in an open letter to the Swiss authorities
made public today its legal obligations under domestic law and the UN Convention
Against Torture (UNCAT) regarding a visit of former US President George W Bush
to Geneva. The letter comes in response
to media reports about his visit to Geneva
Eric Sottas, Secretary General of the OMCT ‘there is not the slightest doubt
that Switzerland is obliged under both international law and its domestic law to
initiate an investigation for acts of torture against any individual present on
its territory that has committed, authorized, participated in or was otherwise
complicit in acts of torture’, said the OMCT. ‘There are no laws that provide an
exception for former head of states’.
letter recalls that there is a compelling body of evidence about the
policy of torture and ill-treatment under the Bush administration. These
policies are well documented and to a large extent publicly acknowledged,
including by the former President’s own admissions of having authorized
interrogations practices that constitute torture.
is not about targeting a former US
President. It is about the respect for the rule of law’, added Eric Sottas. He
recalls that in February 2001 the OMCT had mandated Mr Francois Membrez to bring
a criminal complaint for torture against the former Interior Minister of Tunisia
Abdallah Kallel on behalf of a victim. The General Prosecutor of
swiftly initiated - on the basis of the same principles as those at stake today
– an arrest warrant which could only not be executed because the Minister had
left the country in record speed. Ten years later he was prevented from leaving
in order to be brought to justice, a development seen by Tunisian and European
commentators to be influenced by the case opened at the time in
is a crime under international law wherever and by whoever it is committed and
for the OMCT it is central that the law must not distinguish on the basis of the
status or origin of the offender. The
OMCT also recalls that the United
has so far not taken any steps to assume its responsibility to undertake
comprehensive independent investigations with the aim of bringing those
responsible to justice for torture, enforced disappearances and other crimes
under international law. Nor have they provided any remedies or reparations for
the victims of such practices even in the case of well documented abuse.
should not believe that the question of legal accountability will just go away.
To the contrary it needs to be addressed now and states, and especially the
political allies of the United
should start exercising their influence to bring the impunity for
torture, secret detention and extraordinary renditions to an end.
to the OMCT
letter to the Swiss President
further information please contact:
Eric Sottas, Secretary General, OMCT, + 41 22 809 49 39
Gerald Staberock, Deputy Secretary General, OMCT, + 41 22 809 49