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Swiss request for Guantanamo information on terror suspects sparks outcry

Swiss request for Guantanamo information on terror suspects sparks outcry

Moves by Switzerland to obtain information about its own terror suspects from Guantanamo inmates while criticizing the United States for violating human rights at the detention camp have caused an outcry among the media, politicians and rights groups.
Swiss newspapers reacted angrily Tuesday to the disclosure of the practice in the annual report by the parliamentary oversight committee.
The report revealed that the Swiss federal prosecutor's office sent pictures of suspects detained in Switzerland to U.S. authorities, asking them find out whether detainees held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, recognized the suspects.
The federal prosecutor's office said its request was sent through formal legal channels and that the aim was "to find out whether the detainees (at Guantanamo) knew the persons who are accused in Switzerland or whether they had been seen near or in the training camps in Afghanistan."
Blick, Switzerland's largest circulation daily, criticized the prosecutors' actions under the headline "Switzerland-Guantanamo Scandal."
Le Temps accused the Swiss government of double standards, while 24 Heures said Switzerland was guilty of "collaboration."
The Swiss foreign ministry in a statement last year had voiced criticism of the detention conditions at Guantanamo, saying it shared the United Nations' concern about the center.
"International law also applies in the ... international community's fight against terrorism," the statement said. "Switzerland wishes _ as does the U.N. secretary-general _ that the problems regarding the detention camp Guantanamo be solved as quickly as possible."
Rights groups on Tuesday also criticized Swiss authorities for their actions.
"We are extremely shocked about this information," said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland. "The fact that the federal prosecutor's office seeks information from detainees in Guantanamo, legitimizes the existence of Guantanamo," she told The Associated Press.
Schick said it was highly probable that the information was obtained under torture and added that Switzerland, under the U.N. agreement against torture, was prohibited from using information obtained in such a way.
Parliamentarians across the political spectrum also voiced their concerns.
"Switzerland as depositary state of the Geneva Conventions must not cooperate with secret services that violate human rights, and then benefit from information that was obtained under torture," Green Party lawmaker said Josef Lang.
He said the case showed that the Swiss government was more interested in good ties with the U.S. than the implementation of basic rights.
Lawmaker Alexander J. Baumann of the nationalist Swiss People's Party also criticized the government for its double standards.
Legal assistance between one country and another should be based on the rule of law, he said, but "the detention conditions at Guantanamo do not comply with the rule of law."
The general-secretary of the Christian Democrat Party, Reto Nause, said the issue raised difficult questions.
"The cooperation with this ... detention camp might be on a legally correct basis, but politically it is highly explosive," he told the AP.


Updated : 2021-10-27 17:36 GMT+08:00