Bush Cancels Trip for Fear of Prosecution, Mass Protests

GENEVA — A planned visit to Switzerland by former president George W. Bush to attend a fund-raising gala evening has been cancelled because of the risk of disturbances, the organisers said Saturday.

"Calls for demonstrations are putting things on a slippery slope. The organisers claim to have stewards but warn they cannot be held responsible if matters get out of hand," media quoted the lawyer for the Jewish group staging the event as saying.

"Our evening will still go ahead but George Bush will not attend," Robert Equey, lawyer for the Keren Hayessod association, told the Tribune de Geneve newspaper.

The rights group World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) this week called on Swiss authorities to open an investigation into Bush as former commander-in-chief of US forces if he sets foot on Swiss soil.

The Geneva-based OMCT on Thursday released a letter it sent to Swiss President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to underline Switzerland's obligations under domestic law and the UN Convention Against Torture.

It said that "all information suggests" that Bush "authorised, knew and acquiesced into the practices that constitute the crime of torture."

In his memoirs published last year Bush claimed that use of the water boarding technique -- which simulates drowning -- had directly prevented terror attacks in Britain and the United States.

He also said in an interview with the British newspaper The Times it was "damn right" that he had authorised use of the controversial method on Al-Qaeda's 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Other organisations have banded together to lodge a complaint with a Geneva court against Bush for warcrimes and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq, and several mainly left-wing groups also called for demonstrations on February 12.

Equey said the decision to invite Bush had not been a "provocation," adding that previous guests of Keren Hayessod had included former US president Bill Clinton, former vice-president Al Gore and former New York mayor Rudolf Giuliani.

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