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Bush Visits Canada: Will He Be Arrested for War Crimes?

Bush's diplomatic immunity is gone. Protesters are calling for his arrest as he visits Calgary to deliver a speech.

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"We don't yet know what decision Barack Obama will make concerning a prosecution in the U.S.," he said. "My view at the moment is we should wait to see where the Obama administration is going. The government of nationality should be given the first opportunity to do so."

'No one above the law': Obama

The current president has not yet stated definitively whether or not he will proceed with criminal investigations. He has sent a clear signal of change from the Bush administration in some areas, ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center within one year and commanding American officials to follow treaties and laws that prohibit torture.

But on the question of possible criminal investigations of former administration officials, he has remained somewhat elusive.

Perhaps the most explicit indication he has given was an interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos shortly before his inauguration.

"We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth," Obama said.

"Obviously we're going to look at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."

For some, this interview dampened hopes of the probability of Obama opening an investigation.

Most Americans want torture investigated

"In terms of likelihood, I think the indication right now would be that he would be disinclined to look into a criminal prosecution," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal advocacy organization.

The group is calling for an independent investigation and criminal prosecution of Bush administration officials as part of its 100 Days to Restore the Constitution campaign. Warren said he believes these types of proceedings are necessary to send a message of an end to impunity.

"If there are criminal prosecutions for the actions -- that will have the strongest deterrent effect," he said.

Close to two-thirds of Americans favor an investigation into the use of torture tactics by the Bush administration, according to a late-January USA Today/Gallup poll. Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed said they wanted a criminal investigation while another quarter preferred an independent panel without criminal charges.

"I think that there is significant support from the American people," Warren said. "We as a nation, the United States, cannot move forward... until there's meaningful accountability within the U.S. of the government officials that put forth these crimes," he said. Warren supports using universal jurisdiction laws at any time if that is what is required.

"The preference of course is to have it done within the United States but failing that, if the Obama administration refuses to do that, we would call on the international community," he said, adding that Canada is well within its jurisdiction to prosecute. "It is an independent sovereign and it can move forward as it sees fit."

Calgary, Bush country?

The choice of location for one of Bush's first post-presidency visits was not surprising to local activists.

"It is quite significant that Calgary is the heart of Big Oil in Canada and the heart of conservatism also," said Tavis Ford, part of the protest's organizing committee. "If anywhere on earth is going to welcome Bush it is going to be in Calgary, unfortunately," he said.

Organizers of the protest are hoping to use this choice of location to reveal the widespread public opinion seeking prosecution.

"People all around the world are going to see that in the conservative heartland... that there isn't support, that there is demand for justice and an end to impunity."

 
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