Source: Telegraph.co.uk, February 7, 2011
Posted here: Monday, February 14, 2011 @ 10:38 AM
George W Bush, the former US president, has cancelled a visit to Switzerland where he was to address a Jewish charity gala because of claims by human rights group that he ordered the torture of terrorism suspects.
Mr Bush was the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner on Feb 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation into the torture allegations if he enters the country.
Criminal complaints against Mr Bush have been lodged in Geneva and several human rights groups signalled that they are poised to take further legal action this week.
Swiss officials have said that Mr Bush would still enjoy a certain diplomatic immunity as a former head of state. But Keren Hayesod organisers felt the atmosphere had become too threatening, fearing that protests organised to coincide with his visit could descend into riots.
“We didn’t want to put people and property in Geneva at risk. The gala is maintained but George Bush will not take part,” the group’s lawyer, Robert Equey, told the Tribune de Geneve.
“The (criminal) complaints did not weigh in the decision.”
Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, has received criminal complaints about torture related to Mr Bush, a court spokesman said. “We received a certain number of complaints. We will make no further comment,” Christophe Tournier told Reuters.
Torture is a crime under international law and human rights experts say the absolute prohibition is very clear.
Mr Bush, in his “Decision Points” memoirs on his 2001-2009 presidency, strongly defends the use of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, on terrorism suspects as key to preventing a repeat of the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Most human rights experts consider the practice a form of torture, banned by the Convention on Torture, an international pact prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Switzerland and the United States are among 147 countries to have ratified the 1987 treaty.
Dominique Baettig, a member of the Swiss parliament from the right-wing People’s Party, wrote to the Swiss federal government last week calling for the arrest of Mr Bush for alleged war crimes if he came to the country.
The World Organisation against Torture has said that Switzerland is obliged under both domestic and international law to open an inquiry for acts of torture against any individual on its territory complicit in such crimes.