GENEVA (Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush has canceled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.
Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.
Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.
Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.
An American human rights organization says it plans to take action around former President George W. Bush’s plans to speak at an economic conference near Vancouver, Canada, in October.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is claiming credit for the cancellation of Bush’s visit to Switzerland last week where he was to speak at a dinner in Geneva.
However, event organizers said they canceled the visit because of security concerns and the risk of violence after left-wing groups called for mass protests against the former president.
CCR and Amnesty International had planned to file a criminal complaint in Geneva against Bush for personally authorizing waterboarding—where water is poured over an immobilized person’s face to simulate drowning—of terrorism suspects.
“Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he canceled his trip to avoid our case,” CCR said in a statement.
CCR alleges waterboarding is a form of torture, and says former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which both Canada and the United States are signatories.
“The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide—this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next,” the statement said.