George W. Bush (photo, from aljazeera.net) has cancelled a visit to Switzerland planned for this weekend.
According to organisers the move was made because they did not want to risk violence during protests by left-wing groups, not because of criminal complaints against him in Swiss courts.
On Friday, the United Israel Appeal informed Mr Bush that his February 12 dinner speech in Geneva had been called off, said David Sherzer, his spokesman.
But human rights groups said the cancellation was due to the risk of legal action against the former US president for alleged torture.
They planned to submit a 2,500-page case against Mr Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
According to court officials criminal complaints against the former US president alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva.
And pressure has been building on the Swiss government in order to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.
On Saturday, Keren Hayesod, the organiser, announced that they were cancelling Mr Bush’s participation on security grounds.
Saturday’s edition of Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve quoted the Jewish charity’s lawyer, Robert Equey, as saying the visit was canceled because of the risk that protests by left-wing groups could result in violence.
The dinner was to be held at the lakeside Hotel Wilson.
Protest organisers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside in order to recall the moment an Iraqi journalist threw his footwear at Mr Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) are two of the groups who said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold Mr Bush accountable for torture, including waterboarding.
In his memoirs entitled Decision Points, Mr Bush, who was the American president from 2001 to 2009, strongly defends the use of waterboarding as key to preventing a repeat of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
“He’s avoiding the handcuffs,” Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
Last week, Dominique Baettig, a member of the Swiss parliament from the People’s Party, wrote to the Swiss federal government, calling for the arrest of Mr Bush for alleged war crimes if he came to the neutral country.
But as a former head of state, Mr Bush would still enjoy a certain diplomatic immunity, said Swiss judicial officials.