Former President George W. Bush has canceled a trip to Switzerland after human rights groups threatened legal action over the alleged torture of two men at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
Bush was to be the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity gala, Keren Hayesod, on Feb. 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters Switzerland, according to reports.
Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.
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, according to the Washington Post.
Leftist groups had also called for a protest on the day of Bush's visit next Saturday, leading Keren Hayesod's organizers to announce that they were canceling Bush's participation on security grounds — not because of the criminal complaints, Reuters reported.
But groups including the New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancelation was linked to a growing effort to hold Bush accountable for torture, including water boarding.
Bush has admitted in his memoirs to ordering use of water boarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
However, a Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Associated Press that Bush would have immunity from prosecution for any alleged actions while in office.
The Center for Constitutional Rights disputed that interpretation, arguing there was no such immunity under the Convention Against Torture.
A spokesman for Bush said the former president regretted that his speech was canceled, the Washington Post reported.
"President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office," David Sherzer said in an e-mailed statement.