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Canada's refusal to arrest George W. Bush cited in Amnesty's human rights report

OTTAWA - Canada's failure to arrest former U.S. president George W. Bush during a visit to B.C. is cited by Amnesty International in its annual report on human rights atrocities around the globe.

The report also takes issue with Canada's treatment of aboriginal people, refugees and terrorism suspects and its refusal to hold a public inquiry into the arrests of more than 1,000 protesters during the 2010 G8 summit in Toronto.

Canada's record of alleged human rights violations pales in comparison to the litany of torture, mass executions, and violent suppression of protests cited against countries like Syria and Uganda.

But Amnesty Canada spokesperson John Tackaberry says the organization makes no attempt to rate the magnitude or seriousness of human rights abuses among the 155 nations listed in the 2012 report.

Rather, it includes any country in which there's a "constellation" of violations that cause concern.

In Canada's case, Tackaberry says Amnesty has "serious concerns" that the country is failing "in a number of cases" to meet its international obligations to protect human rights.

Among the cases mentioned is Canada's failure last fall to arrest Bush when he visited British Columbia, "despite clear evidence that he was responsible for crimes under international law, including torture." Amnesty had campaigned for Canada to arrest and prosecute the former president.

The demand for Bush's arrest "was certainly not a frivolous action on our part," Tackaberry said in an interview Wednesday.

"We knew that there was little likelihood of this actually taking place but the important principle is that George (W) Bush has been implicated in serious human rights violations and Canada has a responsibility to ensure that people within their jurisdiction who are alleged to have been involved in serious human rights violations ... that they be brought to justice.

"It's imperative that when there are serious human rights violations that individuals be held to account," he added.

At the time of Bush's visit last October, Amnesty maintained the former president authorized the use of torture against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, in Afghanistan and Iraq as the U.S. pursued its war on terror following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. It cited the use of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" and cruel, degrading treatment, such as forcing detainees to remain in painful position, without sleep, for hours.

As a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, Tackaberry said Canada has an obligation to take action against alleged violators, including Bush.

The report, which documents alleged violations during 2011, also chides Canada for its treatment of aboriginal people on a number of fronts, including its failure to adopt a national action plan to address high levels of violence facing native women. It notes that a federal audit last summer found a majority of drinking water and waste water systems in First Nations communities constitute a health risk.

It further criticizes Canada for refusing to apologize or compensate three men who were detained and tortured abroad because Canadian authorities falsely linked them to terrorist activities.

And it says a proposed crackdown on refugee claimants who arrive en masse, employing the services of human smugglers, violate "international norms" for the treatment of asylum seekers.


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