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Lawyers Oppose Bush Visit


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Legal Group Highlights Bush's Alleged War Crimes

By charlie smith

Publish Date: 25-Nov-2004

An international legal group called Lawyers Against the War has asked federal Immigration Minister Judy Sgro to declare U.S. President George Bush an inadmissable person to Canada under federal immigration legislation. Gail Davidson, a Vancouver lawyer and cofounder of LAW, told the Straight that Bush has been accused of war crimes, which is grounds for refusing someone entry into Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. She added that her group is examining the possibility of laying criminal charges privately against Bush while he is in Canada on November 30.

"If the Canadian government invited him here for a state visit, they couldn't then prosecute him because that would be inveigling him here under false pretences," Davidson said.

On November 19, Davidson and Michael Mandel, an Osgoode Hall law professor and member of LAW, wrote to Prime Minister Paul Martin alleging that Bush committed the Nuremberg Tribunal's "supreme international crime" by waging an aggressive war against Iraq in defiance of international law and the United Nations Charter. They accused Bush of "systematic and massive violations of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, as well as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment".

In their letter, Davidson and Mandel cited a recent study in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, which estimated that 100,000 Iraqis have died since the U.S.­led invasion began last year. The LAW members claimed that the president's link to war crimes comes not only from his "command responsibility" and willful blindness but also from his direct participation in formulating policies.

"This includes his personal involvement not only in the devising and waging of an aggressive, illegal war, but also of the unlawful refusal to grant prisoner of war status to prisoners of war, contrary to specific provisions of the Geneva Conventions, an act repudiated in the US courts," they wrote.

Davidson explained to the Straight that a U.S. District Court judge has ruled that if there is a dispute over the status of detainees, they must be considered prisoners of war unless a "competent court" decides otherwise. She said that this case concerned the U.S. government's detention of an "enemy combatant" at Guantánamo Bay.

Canada has ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a "companion" domestic law called the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. In their November 19 letter, Davidson and Mandel warned Martin that by inviting Bush to Canada, the prime minister may be "abetting" the Bush administration's war crimes.

"As such, you and your colleagues could be personally liable to prosecution under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act by virtue of section 21 of the Canadian Criminal Code, for crimes so serious that they are punishable in Canada by up to life imprisonment," the two LAW members wrote.

Davidson later told the Straight that Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who was appointed by Martin, must provide written consent before anyone can be charged under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

StopWar.ca has organized protests against Bush's November 30 visit at noon at Canada Place, at 12:30 p.m. at the U.S. consulate at Pender and Thurlow streets, and at 5 p.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza.

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