Sri Lanka still precarious for returning Tamil asylum seekers, says Swiss NGO

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 March 2016, 18:34 GMT]
While Amnesty International and Swiss NGOs, including the Swiss Refugee Council, said that the situation for Tamils in Sri Lanka is still precarious and that it is too early for asylum seekers from Switzerland to be returned to Sri Lanka, the Swiss Government and the visiting Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, signed a "migration partnership" the technical consulatations [on involuntarily returning Tamil refugees] of which is to take place soon, according to a Swiss Embassy press release.

In summer 2013, Switzerland sent back two Tamil asylum seekers who were arrested on the island. One of them remained locked up for over a year and was allegedly tortured. Switzerland reacted by stopping returns to Sri Lanka and a readmission accord was put on ice. So far, the authorities have only returned a handful of individuals to Sri Lanka against their will (six in 2015).

“In our view, this step comes too early,” Adrian Schuster, a Sri Lanka expert at the Swiss Refugee Council, told Swiss public radio on Thursday. “We have received reports that in 2015 returning people were arrested or abducted in Sri Lanka."

Amnesty International also has serious misgivings. The general situation has improved since the launch of the reconciliation process, says Nadia Boehlen, spokesperson for the Swiss branch: “But there is an anti-terrorist law that allows the state to lock people up and the demilitarization of the North and Northeast has not yet taken place, neither have people had their land returned.”

She said a recent visit to the island confirmed that torture was still carried out.

The Swiss humanitarian aid programme in Sri Lanka is coming to an end this April after 13 years of reconstruction work in the wake of the tsunami and recurrent outbreaks of conflict.

* * *


The 2009 Switzerland sponsored resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council, had earlier prompted Professor Boyle 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."

In 2009, Professor Francis Boyle from the University of Illinois was irked by the action of the Swiss on the resolution to add, “[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 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 Swiss government and allied NGOs have demonstrated their willingness to support the international community to whitewash a possible genocide. This practice continues to this day as in September 2015 the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Swiss Peace [NGO] participated in a meeting organized by an NGO outfit to soften the Tamil call for international investigations on Sri Lanka genocide.

Also, on the matter of asylum seekers and refugees, Switzerland with predictable self-interest, had appeared to support the view that ‘Sri Lankan’ rights record has improved vis-a-vis Tamils.


External Links:
SwissEmbassy: Swiss Embassy press release on Sri Lanka engagement
TurkishWeekly: Swiss NGOs warn ‘too early’ to send Sri Lankans home


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