Protest threat cancels Bush Geneva visit

2011-02-05 20:24

Geneva - A visit former US President George W Bush planned to make to Switzerland next week has been cancelled 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 spokesperson David Sherzer said the two-term president was informed on Friday by the United Israel Appeal that his February 12 dinner speech in Geneva had been called off.

"We regret that the speech has been cancelled," Sherzer said in an e-mail on Saturday. "President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office."

Saturday's edition of Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve quoted the Jewish charity's lawyer, Robert Equey, as saying the visit was cancelled 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. "The organisers claimed to be able to maintain order, but warned they could not be held responsible for any outbursts."

Protest organisers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson - named after Bush's predecessor Woodrow 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.

No comment

Equey told Tribune de Geneve that attempts by human rights groups to submit legal complaints against Bush to Swiss prosecutors hadn't played a part in the decision to cancel the visit.

Sherzer, Bush's spokesperson, declined to comment on the reasons for the cancellation.

Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the New York-based Centre 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.

"Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case," the Centre for Constitutional Rights and others said in a statement.

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.

Furthermore, an initial assessment by the Swiss Justice Ministry concluded that Bush would have enjoyed immunity from prosecution for any actions taken while in office, ministry spokesman Folco Galli said.

Widney Brown, Amnesty's senior director of international law and policy, said the group would continue to press for Bush's prosecution the next time the former president travels to a country that has committed to prosecuting war crimes and where he could expect a fair trial.

Sherzer said Bush has made several trips outside of the United States since leaving office two years ago, including to South Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and the Middle East.

  • Wonderboy - 2011-02-06 00:53

    What a bunch of idiots. They do not want to hear the truth, only what they proclaim to be the truth. Narrow minded people.

      NEOPO - 2011-02-06 01:27

      What truth is that exactly?? That they still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?? Bush is the biggest IDIOT! They messed up a country dude and he is living a apple pie life in the US. Well they got their oil fields and people do not want to hear his BULL.

  • Allin - 2011-02-06 07:17

    George W Bush must be the dumbest guy ever to hold public office, except maybe, just maybe, JZ

  • aderits - 2011-02-06 08:14

    Some of you haven't a clue what it's like be a free citizen of the world. Go and live in an oppressed nation then only you will realize what Bush was fighting for. Freedom is a right granted to each person by the Higher power and nobody has the right to deny anyone their freedom.

      Alfred - 2011-02-06 09:41

      ooh! show me this higher power. One of the most oppressive nations in the world is the good ole USA. The highest per capita prison population in the world, no habeas corpus, wholesale torture, censorship, thug police force, 25 year sentence for a joint, life imprisonment for a loaf of bread, the largest military budget in the world, over 700 military bases in over 130 countries in the world. By the way those oppressive nations you are talking about, most are supported by the USA. President Hosni Mubarak, the Saudi rulers, Israel, etc.

      christine - 2011-02-06 11:12

      well said--sadly aderits is correct --i havent a clue about what its like to be a free citizen--after all i live in SA under zuma and the ANC bush was fighting for oil --if that cost 100 000 lives who cares , he does not--as someone said he must be the dumbest president-- the usa ever had---u think not??? --well look at the state of america after 8 years of bush--they are on their knees --sad for the mighty usa and hard for obama to try and fix

  • Alfred - 2011-02-06 08:41

    I bet if Charles Taylor had gone to Switzerland they would have arrested him. Talk about double standards. 'Immunity from prosecution' what bull.

      aderits - 2011-02-06 09:06

      In fact they should arrest most of the African and Arab despots who deny their people freedom, and take away their dignity. And above all, who torture, murder and steal from their own people.

      Alfred - 2011-02-06 09:43

      @aderits funny thing about those African and Arab despots most have the full support of the USA.

      aderits - 2011-02-06 12:30

      Sure the U.S just wants their Oil, it is in their interest. But that's ok, the only problem is that greed gets the better of these despots, leading them not to share in their countries' wealth, so much so that they kill and torture their own people who only want a small slice of the cake. @Alfred, sure the U.S are no saints, but surely one should be behind them when it comes to human freedom and liberty?

      Alfred - 2011-02-06 16:00

      @aderits read my above post Americans like you are just brainwashed zombies who repeat those tied old, empty buzzwords 'human freedom and liberty' over and over again without actually grasping what they mean. America is an imperial militarist state with the worst human rights record in the twenty first century, it a police state, sham democracy controlled by the super rich plutocrats. Currently it is torturing more people than the rest of the world put together, so no I am not behind them, in fact the sooner this state of greedy, arrogant tyrants and ignorant, simple minded, brainwashed, tea party zombies, collapses the better. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfelt, Rove, Albright, Obama are a bunch of criminals responsible for mass torture and other human rights abuses like rendition, targeted assassination, imprisonment without trail and who all belong in prison.

  • Ibo - 2011-02-06 12:21

    What a shame and double standards of the so-called law abiding nations if they let Bush & bad guys like the Israel Government ministers keep travelling around freely? Those criminals deserve in the prisons if international laws still have any value.

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