George W. Bush canceled a trip to Switzerland after human rights groups pressed for the former president’s arrest on torture charges, the Guardian reports.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization pressing for Bush’s arrest, says they “have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case.” Amnesty International says “an investigation would be mandatory under Switzerland’s international obligations if President Bush entered the country.” The United Israel Appeal, the group that was planning to host Bush in Geneva, says that the calls for an arrest warrant were not a factor in the former president’s decision to stay away.
The visit to Switzerland would have been Bush’s first trip to Europe since the publication of his memoir Decision Points. In the book, Bush says that he authorized the use of waterboarding – an act of simulated drowning considered by many human rights advocates to be torture — on terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
“What we have in Switzerland is a Pinochet opportunity,” said Gavin Sullivan, a lawyer for one of the groups advocating for Bush’s arrest. Sullivan was refereeing to Augusto Pinochet, the exiled Chilean dictator arrested in London for crimes allegedly carried out by his government.
He added: “Bush enjoys no immunity from prosecution. As head of state he authorized and condoned acts of torture, and the law is clear – where a person has been responsible for torture, all states have an obligation under international law to open an investigation and prosecute.”
Although former Bush speechwriter David Frum is suspicious of the “so-called” human rights activists’ claims, he still wants the current president to address the issue anyway. “It’s hard to know how much of this story is true, and how much is fundraising bluster,” he writes. “But if even a small portion of the news is true, President Obama has a duty to speak up and to warn foreign governments that further indulgence of this kind of nonsense by their court systems will be viewed as an unfriendly act by the United States.”