George W Bush has had to call off a trip to Switzerland next weekend amid planned protests by human rights groups over the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and the threat of a warrant for his arrest.
David Sherzer, a spokesman for the former US president, confirmed the move in an email to the Associated Press. “We regret that the speech has been cancelled,” he said. “President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office.”
The visit would have been Bush’s first to Europe since he admitted in his autobiography, Decision Points, in November that he had authorised the use of waterboarding – simulated drowning – on detainees at Guantánamo accused of links with al-Qaida. Whether out of concern over the protests or the arrest warrant, it is an extraordinary development for a former US president to have his travel plans curtailed in this way, and amounts to a victory for human rights campaigners.