Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson seeks Dick Cheney's arrest

Dick Cheney is coming to town on September 26 to promote his book In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. But Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson has other plans for one of the most controversial figures of the modern era, a powerful man who publicly admitted having allowed torture.

The cofounder of the international group Lawyers Against the War wants the government of Canada either to bar the former U.S. vice president from entering the country or, if he’s allowed in, to arrest and prosecute him for torture, war offences, and crimes against humanity. And if Canada isn’t keen on punishing the ex–vice president to former president George W. Bush, Davidson argues, then it should extradite Cheney to a country that is willing and able to prosecute him.

One of the most vocal defenders of U.S. foreign policy, specifically the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Cheney is the first featured speaker in the 2011–12 series of Vancouver’s Bon Mot Book Club.

“It’s a bit chilling that they would invite a mass murderer as their guest to Canada,” Davidson told the Georgia Straight by phone, “when any one of them would know full well that because of the founded accusations made against Mr. Cheney, that he’s persona non grata in Canada, being accused of international crimes, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”

Organizer Leah Costello explained that the Bon Mot Book Club is an “intimate and exclusive high-end dinner series”, wherein her company Curious Mind Productions Inc. brings in world leaders and other high-profile speakers. Cheney will speak at a dinner event at the Vancouver Club.

“I haven’t heard anything yet,” Costello told the Straight by phone, when asked if she expects protests to greet Cheney. “But I have heard that he’s a controversial figure. That’s for sure.”

In a recent NBC interview, Cheney declared that he had “no regrets” that the American government used torture against terrorism suspects.

Asked if the U.S. should still use widely condemned techniques like waterboarding, Cheney responded: “I would strongly support using it again if circumstances arose where we had a high-value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk.”

According to Davidson, the government is obliged under local and international laws—such as the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—to deny safe haven and prosecute persons accused of crimes like torture. Davidson is writing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and key cabinet ministers to outline evidence against the Bush administration and its senior officials.

“The role of Mr. Cheney is that he authorized, directed, ordered, supervised, and failed to prevent the commission of a wide range of crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Davidson said.

She has previously written to the government, suggesting steps similar to those regarding Cheney be taken when Bush visits Surrey on October 20. The ex-president has been invited by Mayor Dianne Watts to the Surrey Regional Economic Summit.

In her letter dated August 25 regarding Bush’s visit, Davidson cited a transcript of a U.S. interview with Cheney in May 2009, in which Cheney stated that Bush authorized torture. He said: “I mean it was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.”

Speaking to the Straight, Davidson said that the evidence against the Bush administration is well known and part of the public record. The documentation contained in Davidson’s August 25 letter includes a statement from now retired U.S. army Maj.-Gen. Antonio Taguba, who looked into abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Taguba stated that “the Commander-in-Chief [Bush] and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture”.

The Vancouver lawyer also cited a 2004 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that the American military used interrogation techniques amounting to torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. naval base in Cuba. She likewise mentioned a 2007 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report that spoke about a “whole series of illegal acts in Europe” by the CIA through “extraordinary rendition”, a practice in which individuals are abducted from one country and sent to another, to be detained and tortured for information in secret locations.

Davidson stressed that when Canada ratified the international convention against torture, it accepted a duty not just to Canadians but to everyone. And that is to “take effective measures to prevent and punish torture wherever it occurs, whatever the nationality of the victims are, and whatever the nationality of the perpetrators”.


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Mrs. Tibbs

Sep 8, 2011 at 4:43am

When are we going to demand the same of Harper or any of our own for condoning the same kinds of treatments? While I stand behind this protest to invite such despicable humans into Canada as though life is business as usual after and during their inhumane behaviour towards other human beings, I also want those in Canada's government and military to face the same examination.

Anne Streeter

Sep 8, 2011 at 5:26am

Dick Cheney has so much blood on his hands. I am amazed that any person or organization would have the temerity to invite him to speak in this country! Shame! Mr. Cheney belongs in the Hague!

Mr Begg

Sep 8, 2011 at 8:34am

Mr Towes is in search of War criminals.. Let him find Dick Cheney


Sep 8, 2011 at 8:46am

Tibbs, you and your "pricipled" cohorts cosistantly fail to see the world for what it really is. Chaney is not a nice guy, granted, but he did what he did to protect his people as he saw fit, with the tools at his disposal. It's really too bad that some poor sod intent on attacking us had to endure a drip but if it saved lives then it was well worth it.

All this "examination" you and your ilk desire plays very well into the hands of those that mean us harm. They really don't need to expend too much time, money and effort when you will do their dirty work for them.

For a true appreciation of life as it is, not some pretend world, I would recommend moving to Iran and demanding the full investigation of the government and jailing of their leaders. See how far that gets you.

Have the rose coloured glasses surgically removed and grow up, it's a tough world out there and as dispicable as it may be we need tough guys to deal with the bad guys.

Michel Boucher

Sep 8, 2011 at 9:15am

Don't think it will work. They let Ann Coulter slither in and kept Galloway out. Fratboy Kenney isn't about to let himself be convinced by logic, or even fairness.

Jim Pook

Sep 8, 2011 at 9:38am

Without men like Dick Cheney, these islamic crazies would be running loose all over North America killing people to push their brand religion.

He should be given a medal.


Sep 8, 2011 at 9:39am

When is the last time we have had a Government that cares what the public thinks, even when it is clear these views are in the majority ? Prior to elections, issues Canadians are clearly concerned about are avoided by ALL the political leaders if they threaten the status quo. The lives this man has been responsible for ending or ruining doesn't matter a damn to NATO allies nor do the countries that have been destroyed with thousands of DU bombs. Thankfully Chretien kept Canada out of the ruination of Iraq. Gail Davidson will not be successful but good for her for bringing this man's crimes to the attention of at least some Canadians. Her name must be "Mud" with this Government and she is probably on all kinds of lists.

Standing Water BA LLD MBA

Sep 8, 2011 at 10:44am

PeterLT, it is hilarious to read a clearly immature individual talk about "growing up" into a worldview of "us" vs. "them", "good guys" vs. "bad guys."

Excuse me while I go play Cowboys'n'Indians. Way more fun than NATO'n'Non-NATO---at least the Cowboys fought somewhat fair, didn't use an airforce.


Sep 8, 2011 at 11:15am

This is Canada when was the last time Canada actually prosecuted and imprisoned any War Criminal?

Look at the number of "people" who came here after WWII from that Axis Country, nothing happened to them.

I don't see the solid legal ground in CANADIAN LAW either.

No Country will go against the US to prosecute one of it's top officials. The US either Democrat or Republican will never allow it.

They (the USA) are not pussies like Canadian Governments.

That is why they are strong and we are weak whiners.

Best of luck with that Gail & Co.


Sep 8, 2011 at 11:35am

Dick Cheney is a war profiteer, an arrogant asshole proven capable of great evil but he has diplomatic immunity for any of his actions as Vice President.
Do you think this is why the US (under Bush/Cheney) refused to join the International Criminal Court?