Human Rights Watch Urges Ottawa To Investigate Cheney Over Torture

Dick Cheney

First Posted: 09/24/11 11:27 AM ET Updated: 09/24/11 11:36 PM ET

TORONTO - A human rights group is urging the federal government to bring criminal charges against former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, accusing him of playing a role in the torture of detainees during the years of the Bush administration.

Cheney will be in Vancouver on Monday to promote his book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," which outlines his views of the war on terror and other events during the administration of president George W. Bush.

Human Rights Watch claims that overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens, are grounds for Canada to investigate Cheney and comply with the Convention Against Torture.

In addition, the New York-based group said that Canadian law expressly provides for jurisdiction over an individual for torture and other crimes if the complainant is a Canadian citizen, even for offences committed outside of Canada.

It said in a news release issued Saturday that Canada had ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1987 and incorporated its provisions into the Canadian Criminal Code.

"The U.S. has utterly failed to meet its legal obligation to investigate torture by the Bush administration, but that shouldn't let other countries off the hook," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

"Cheney's visit to Vancouver is a rare opportunity to remedy this shameful failure to uphold the rule of law."

A spokesperson for Cheney could not be reached for comment, but in the past the former vice-president has been a staunch defender of the policies of the Bush years.

He frequently appeared on the U.S. talk-show circuit to say he's unapologetic about waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques. He has repeatedly insisted such tactics saved "hundreds of thousands of lives.''

The complaint from the human rights group came on the heels of a New Democrat MP's call on Friday for the federal government to bar Cheney from entering Canada.

Don Davies sent a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney urging the federal government to deny Cheney entry, also citing the treatment of detainees during the Bush administration years.

Kenney's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented the role of senior Bush administration officials in authorizing torture of detainees, including "waterboarding" and prolonged exposure to heat and cold.

The group further said the U.S. was directly responsible or complicit in the alleged torture of at least two Canadian citizens, Maher Arar and Omar Khadr.

U.S. authorities deported Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, back to Syria in 2002 when he stopped in the U.S. on the way home to Canada. He was jailed in Damascus and tortured into giving false confessions about terrorist links.

Khadr was convicted a year ago in Guantanamo Bay after pleading guilty to war crimes he committed as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan.

"Canada's own investigation into the Maher Arar case shows there is sufficient evidence to investigate Cheney for authorizing torture," Roth said.

"Bush, Cheney, and others authorized the abusive detention regime that Canadians and thousands of others were subjected to. They should be held accountable."

Antiwar activists are expected to protest in Vancouver during Cheney's trip.

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Filed by Scaachi Koul  |