Bush can’t go to Geneva (and other consequences of torture)

Last year, when Boris Johnson, the mayor of London rather bluntly told former U.S. president George W. Bush to not bother making that city part of his book tour, constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley — a continuing advocate for prosecuting those in the Bush administration who engaged in or authorized torture — wondered if international shunning might be the new war crimes prosecution. Enter, Geneva. (Or don’t enter, if you’re Dubya …)

From CBS News:

(AP)  GENEVA – A visit by former U.S. President George W. Bush to Switzerland next week has been canceled because of security concerns, after left-wing groups called for mass protests and rights activists sought to bring a legal case against him for ordering the torture of terrorism suspects.

Mr. Bush’s spokesman David Sherzer said the two-term president was informed Friday by the United Israel Appeal that his Feb. 12 dinner speech in Geneva had been called off.

“We regret that the speech has been canceled,” Sherzer told The Associated Press in an e-mail Saturday. “President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office.”

Saturday’s edition of Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve cited the Jewish charity’s lawyer, Robert Equey, saying the visit was canceled because of the risk that protests by left-wing groups could result in violence.

“The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain,” Equey told the newspaper. “The organizers claimed to be able to maintain order, but warned they could not be held responsible for any outbursts.”

Protest organizers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson – named after President Bush’s predecessor Woodrow Wilson – where the dinner was to be held. The shoe was meant to recall the moment an Iraqi journalist threw his footwear at Mr. Bush during a news conference in 2008.

Equey told Tribune de Geneve that attempts by human rights groups to submit legal complaints against Mr. Bush to Swiss prosecutors hadn’t played a part in the decision to cancel the visit.

Well about those tooootally irrelevant attempted prosecutions:

Feb. 3 – The Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has called for Switzerland to open a criminal investigation against former US President George W. Bush.
In an open letter published on Thursday, the OMCT told the Swiss authorities that they had the duty to do so under domestic law as well as under the UN Convention Against Torture.

The letter comes in response to Bush’s upcoming visit to Geneva; he has been invited to attend a gala dinner on February 12. It states that there is a compelling body of evidence about the US policy of torture and ill-treatment under the Bush administration.

According to the OMCT, these policies are well documented and to a large extent publicly acknowledged, including by the former president’s own admissions of having authorised interrogation techniques that constitute torture.

Bush’s visit has angered a number of groups that have joined forces to file a collective complaint against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Iraq. Demonstrations are also planned in Geneva.

CBS reports that one of those groups was Amnesty International and another was the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. CBS continues;

planned to ask Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal investigation against the former president over the admission that he personally authorized the waterboarding of terrorism suspects.

“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.

Legal experts say it is unlikely Swiss prosecutors would have had the time to examine any criminal complaint against Mr. Bush and take action, such as requesting him to respond to the allegations, before he left Switzerland again.

Furthermore, an initial assessment by the Swiss Justice Ministry concluded that President Bush would have enjoyed immunity from prosecution for any actions taken while in office, ministry spokesman Folco Galli told the AP.

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.

Sherzer said Mr. Bush has made several trips outside of the United States since leaving office two years ago, including to South Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and the Middle East.

Well, he has for now, anyway …

And I can’t help wondering if international travel is, or will be, as fraught for Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Don Rumsfeld (who has had his brushes with citizens arrest requests) and other members of the “Bush Six,” like John Yoo and James Bybee. Signs point to yes, as a Spanish prosecutor has far from dropped the case.

Some of the same groups behind the Dubya Geneva push-back, namely the Center for Constitutional Rights, are keeping the Bush Six case alive, which could make international travel dicey for former members of the Bush administration who participated in the “enhanced interrogation” (read “torture”) program.

And while it’s considered bad manners to bring up the whole Bush torture policy thing here in the states, in Great Britain, there is still a lot of discussion in that country about its complicity in what many people continue to believe were war crimes.

Tick tock…

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