GENEVA – A visit former U.S. President George W. Bush planned to make to Switzerland next week has been canceled because of security concerns, after left-wing groups called for mass protests and rights activists proposed legal action against him for allegedly ordering the torture of terrorism suspects.
Bush’s spokesman David Sherzer said the two-term president was informed Friday by the United Israel Appeal that his dinner speech Saturday in Geneva had been called off.
Saturday’s edition of Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve quoted the Jewish charity’s lawyer, Robert Equey, as saying the visit was canceled because of the risk that protests by left-wing groups could result in violence.
“The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain,” Equey told the newspaper.
Protest organizers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson where the dinner was to be held. The shoe was meant to recall the moment an Iraqi journalist threw his footwear at Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008.
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had planned to ask Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal investigation against Bush over the admission that he personally authorized the waterboarding of terrorism suspects.
Legal experts say it is unlikely Swiss prosecutors would have had the time to examine any criminal complaint against Bush and take action, such as requesting him to respond to the allegations, before he left Switzerland again.