President George W. Bush has canceled an event in the famously neutral country Switzerland because of expected protests to his presence there. Bush was supposed to give the keynote address at a Jewish group’s charity gala on Feb. 12 in Geneva.
Leftist groups had planned to protest the visit, according to news agencies. But several human rights groups had also filed criminal complaints against Bush, demanding that he be taken into custody if he stepped on Swiss soil and investigated for allegations of ordering torture.
A right-wing member of the Swiss parliament also demanded last week Bush’s arrest on war crimes allegations if he came to the country, according to Reuters.
Swiss officials countered that, as a former head of state, Bush would be protected with a level of diplomatic immunity, and Keren Hayesod, the group that had invited Bush, said the court actions against the former president did not play into the decision to go forward with the dinner without him.
“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.”
He noted protests against the G8 summit just across the border in France in 2003 that ended up rampaging through Geneva.