Washington, Feb 6 (IANS) Former US president George W. Bush has cancelled his trip to Switzerland after human rights activists threatened legal action over allegations that he sanctioned the torture of terrorism suspects in custody.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and several European human rights groups said they were planning to lodge a complaint against Bush and wanted Swiss authorities to open a criminal case against him once he arrived in the country, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
Bush was scheduled to speak in Geneva Feb 12 at a dinner in the honour of the United Israel Appeal.
A lawyer for the organisation said that Bush’s appearance was cancelled because of the risk of violence, and that the threat of legal action was not an issue.
“The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain,” the lawyer, Robert Equey, told the Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve.
A spokesman for Bush said the former president regretted that his speech was canceled.
“President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office,” David Sherzer was quoted as having said in an e-mail.
Organizers of a rally outside the Hotel Wilson, where the speech was scheduled to take place, had called on demonstrators to each bring a shoe, an effort to echo the assault on Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008 when an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at him, the Post said.
The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that they had planned to bring the complaint under the Convention Against Torture on behalf of two of men, Majid Khan, who remains at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Sami al-Hajj, a former al-Jazeera cameraman who was released in May 2008.
The 2,500-page complaint will not be filed in court, but will be released Monday at a media event in Switzerland.
“Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he canceled his trip to avoid our case,” the center’s statement said. “The message from civil society is clear: If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It’s a slow process for accountability, but we keep going.”