The United Israel Appeal scrapped a plan to showcase President George W. Bush at aFeb. 12 gala in Geneva amid reports that human rights groups were poised to protest andfile a torture complaint.
The charity, also known as Keren Hayesod, notified the former president on Fridaymorning "that the event has been called off," a Bush spokesman, David Sherzer, saidSaturday.
"We regret that the speech has been canceled," Sherzer said. "President Bush waslooking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time inoffice."
The United Israel Appeal did not respond to an emailed request for an explanation onSaturday, the Jewish Sabbath. But the Associated Press, citing a Swiss newspaper report,said charity officials were worried protests could turn violent at the speech by the 43rdAmerican president.
It was to be held at the Hotel Wilson, named for the 28th American president, WoodrowWilson.
Protest organizers told participants to bring an extra shoe, prompting fears thatsomeone might re-enact an Iraqi journalist's 2008 assault on President Bush in Baghdad.The reporter hurled his own footwear as a sign of contempt.
The New York based Center for Constitutional Rights said Saturday that European humanrights groups had compiled a 2,500-page Convention Against Torture complaint against Bush,seeking to trigger it once he set foot onto Swiss soil.
CCR, a law firm led by New York civil rights lawyer Michael Ratner, has for years fileda series of mixed-result lawsuits against Bush administration policies, alleging civilliberties and human rights abuses in its detention, rendition and warrantless wiretappingpolicies.
It systematically sued in U.S. courts on behalf of Guantánamo captives, expandingdetainee rights since the Pentagon inaugurated the prison camps opened in southeast Cubain January 2002.
It also is a party to a complaint in Spain against former Attorney General AlbertoGonzales and five other Bush era lawyers that alleges international human-rights abuses inthe U.S. treatment of war on terror captives.
That complaint has been stalled for years, and a series of U.S. diplomatic cablesposted on the Internet late last year by Wikileaks showed the efforts both the Bush andObama administrations made to derail it.
Still, a Spanish magistrate has given the United States a March 1 deadline to saywhether it was pursuing its own probe of the Bush legal brain trust.
Saturday, Ratner's firm all-but claimed credit for grounding Bush.
"The message from civil society is clear," it said in a statement. "If you're atorturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but wekeep going."
Bush's spokesman countered that the Texan, who scarcely traveled abroad before his timein the White House, has been a frequent flier in retirement.
"President Bush has made several trips outside of the United States, including toSouth Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and the Middle East," Sherzer said. "He gavemore than 60 speeches last year, and we expect this year to be similar."