Former President George W. Bush canceled a February 12 visit to a Jewish charity gala in Switzerland, reportedly out of fears that legal action would be taken against him for his role in authorizing torture. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, and Center for Constitutional Rights, said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in Geneva “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 Jewish charity group, United Israel Appeal, said it was canceling Bush’s invitation on security grounds, not due to legal action. “The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain,” Robert Equey, a lawyer for the organization, said. Protesters urged attendees of the rally to bring a shoe, recalling the moment when an Iraqi journalist threw one at Bush.
The human rights groups had a different interpretation. “Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he canceled his trip to avoid our case,” the Center for Constitutional Rights and others said in a statement. “He’s avoiding the handcuffs,” Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
Recall, Bush has acknowledged giving authorization to waterboard 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (waterboarding is a torture tactic that violates both U.S. statute and international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory):
Bush Said He Was Personally Involved. Bush: “I’m in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools, and I said are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made.” [Link]
Bush Said He Approved Torture. Bush: “Yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” [Link]
Bush Has No Regrets. “Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. … I’d do it again to save lives.” [Link]
Widney Brown, Amnesty’s senior director of international law and policy, said the group “would continue to press for President Bush’s prosecution next time the former president travels to a country that has committed to prosecuting war crimes and where he could expect a fair trial.”