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Criminal complaint in Geneva against George W. Bush: what has TRIAL done?

08.02.2011 ( Last modified: 17.07.2017 )

Following the announcement that the former President of the United States of America was going to come to Geneva on 12 February 2011 for personal reasons, TRIAL has been requested on several occasions to participate in the proceedings against George W. Bush.

The organisation believes that it is likely that international crimes (namely torture, enforced disappearances and war crimes) were perpetrated by the Bush administration and that, on an international scale, George W. Bush could be held accountable on grounds of individual criminal responsibility.

The only thing that remained was to find a place to investigate this and potentially try the perpetrators, including George W. Bush.

This place should be the United States of America (USA).

However, up to now, the USA has not been willing to begin proceedings in accordance with their international obligations.

Several organisations, including victims (of which some are still being held in Guantanamo Bay), would like to use the legal mechanisms provided for by international law to get justice elsewhere, in particular by applying the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Owing to the announcement that George W. Bush will be in Switzerland on 12 February 2011, Switzerland has proved to be competent to start criminal proceedings, at the very least by applying the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Due to the specific nature of the case, TRIAL has decided not to take part directly in the legal proceedings. Being aware of the risk linked to proceedings that are poorly carried or argued, which may lead to legal decisions contrary to the interests of the victims and block all investigations for this case and for any future cases, TRIAL has supported the legal actions led by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECHR) by providing them with legal assistance.

These organisations have been working for years to put an end to impunity regarding practices by the administration of the United States that contravene international law. As soon as the actions were to be carried out, it appeared that the best way for TRIAL to fulfil its role in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was to provide expert advice, and leave it to others to start suitable legal procedures.

Given George W. Bush’s cancelling of his trip to Geneva, the complaints could not be lodged.


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