Chequered Swiss history of supporting Sri Lanka's crimes

[TamilNet, Sunday, 20 September 2015, 22:02 GMT]
Switzerland, besides U.S., U.K, and India, has played a key role in providing diplomatic sanctuary for Sri Lanka in international fora against censure for alleged criminal conduct against Tamils. The most strident display was when the Swiss sponsored a UN resolution calling "upon the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate and prosecute itself for war crimes and crimes against humanity," as the State killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in the final phases of 2009 war. This paved the way for the international community to whitewash a possible genocide. This practice continues to this day as Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Swiss Peace [NGO] participate this week in a meeting organized by an NGO outfit to soften the Tamil call for international investigations on Sri Lanka genocide.

The 2009 Switzerland sponsored resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council, prompted Professor Boyle, an expert in International Law and Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, to comment that Swiss action would be the same “as if the U.N. had invited the Nazi government to investigate and prosecute itself for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Jews instead of supporting the Nuremberg Charter and Tribunal."

Boyle added, “[t]he glaring hypocrisy and blatant sophistry of the Swiss Resolution is heightened by the fact that Switzerland is the Depositary for the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Two Additional Protocols of 1977 and therefore bears a special obligation under international law to promote, guarantee and ensure their effective enforcement rather than their negation and nullification, which this Swiss Resolution will do. Obviously, Switzerland knows exactly what it is doing. The same is true for the 25 other state Co-Sponsors of the Swiss Resolution."

The the enormity of Sri Lanka crimes bordering on genocide which have been documented in the UN OISL report, has established that the hurriedly passed Swiss resolution in 2009 was ill-conceived. The report also vindicates Prof. Boyle's characterization of the diplomatic blunder by the then Swiss Government and its UN diplomats. [The OISL report was authored by Marti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, former High Court Judge of New Zealand and Asma Jehangir, former President of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.]

Further, Switzerland stands accused of its stand to support ‘Sri Lanka’ when the possibility of grave criminality was clear during the war. In addition, the SL State has provided ample testimony during the past six years of its inability and/or unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators of dastardly crimes against the Tamil people during the war. Swiss and other sponsors continue to allow more space and time to genocidal Sri Lanka to avoid reaping the legal consequences of possible culpability. Swiss decision makers cannot be unaware of the following factors that point to SL conduct during the war and during the six years following the war:
  • Culpability to most serious crimes are likely to be traced to command responsibility of high-level current and former ‘Sri Lanka’ officials, including the now deposed President Rajapakse, his sibling, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, and former military commanders including Retd. Maj.Gen. Sarath Fonseka. US Ambassador Patricia Butenis observed last January that no regime investigates “its own troops or senior officials for war crimes.’’ She then added, in a devastating aside, that in in the island “responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers.’’
  • Several commissions, including IIEGP and others, appointed to "investigate crimes" have clearly shown that the State used commissions as an instrument to buy time. Commissions with international participation had the same destiny; the internal eminent persons either quit, or the State disbanded the commissions prematurely.
  • Throwing monkey wrench in the works: State scheming of additional delay and watering down of the seriousness of the "international court" for war-crimes by saying local complaints of graft will also be investigated by the court.
On the matter of asylum seekers and refugees, Switzerland with predictable self-interest, appears to support the view that ‘Sri Lankan’ rights record has improved vis-a-vis Tamils.

Of the nearly 50,000 Tamils living in Switzerland, nearly 3,000 are asylum seekers, and more than 1800 have been given temporary status by July 2013. However, Switzerland continued to deport Tamils who are refused refugee status even when there were reports of arrests of returnees. In Sept 2013 Swiss refugee authorities temporarily suspended deportations prompting Human rights groups to launch a petition calling for an end – not just a temporary suspension – to deportations to ‘Sri Lanka’. The Rights groups also called on the Swiss authorities to break off negotiations on a formal repatriation accord with ‘Sri Lanka’. The talks were started in 2009.

Tamil circles commented that the issue being tackled by the OISL report only about the conduct of the warring parties during the war. The Sinhala politicians, including the vocal majority of the intelligentia, are resorting to inject extraenous issues including Sinhala accusations of graft with a view to sabotage the finely focused criminal investigations of war-crimes. However, it appears to be a formidable task, reading the strong language of Zeid report, not withstanding perhaps further assistance, if any, from the Swiss diplomats among others.

Related Articles:
19.09.15   Sumanthiran acts to weaken Tamil demand for genocide investi..
26.05.09   “Glaring hypocrisy, blatant sophistry” Boyle slams Swiss UN ..
08.03.08   GoSL lacks will to bring justice – IIGEP
08.01.08   Colombo Cover-up

External Links:
NYT: A Reckoning on Sri Lanka War Crimes
UNWatch: UN Watch slams “toothless” Swiss-EU draft U.N. resolution on Sri Lanka
FoxNews: UN rights chief seeks special court on Sri Lanka civil war atrocities including foreign judges
SwissInfo: Repatriations suspended to Sri Lanka


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