Feature Article

Swiss ruling, a precedent-setting victory for Right of Self-Determination oriented freedom fighters

[TamilNet, Friday, 15 June 2018, 21:07 GMT]
Zurich-based legal experts, who represented the former LTTE-associated activists in Switzerland involved in the fundraising to the struggle of Eezham Tamil independence, have praised the recent verdict in the Swiss Federal Criminal Court as a precedent-setting victory. The decision is a victory for the Right of Self-determination oriented national liberation armed struggles that get wrongly classified as terrorism due to international politics, Marcel Bosonnet, one of the legal experts who defended the Tamil activists told TamilNet in an interview on Friday. The judges felt that there were not enough concrete proofs to consider the LTTE as a criminal organisation. This ruling is outstanding and is much better-placed than the EU ruling as it challenges the international politics based terrorism classification with a principled legal question, Tamil legal activists in Switzerland said.

“It was a big sign for the Tamils in Switzerland and other countries that fighting for freedom cannot be a crime,” Marcel Bosonnet said.

Marcel Bosonnet is a prominent lawyer who also represented US whistleblower Edward Snowden in a widely publicised case in 2014 in Switzerland.

Marcel Bosonnet
Marcel Bosonnet [Photo courtesy: Nicola Pitaro / tagesanzeiger.ch]
The Tamil case was the biggest one ever done by the Swiss public prosecutor in the history of Switzerland, he said.

“We were three months in the Swiss Penal Federal Court, and it was the longest procedure ever witnessed there.”

In January 2011, during raids conducted by the Police in several Cantons, ten persons were arrested. They were accused of money laundering, belonging to criminal organisations, intimidation and blackmail. Among the accused was the former Head of World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), which represented the LTTE in Switzerland until 2009, its founder, his deputy and the person in charge of finances.

The case went on for seven years, and the trial took eight weeks and had cost CHF3.79 million ($4 million) to the prosecutor.

To a question whether there was any external influence to Swiss Public Prosecutor, Bosonnet told TamilNet that he was convinced that there was such influence.

There was massive pressure from the Government of Sri Lanka through its Ambassador. In addition to that, other countries were also influencing the Swiss prosecutor to open up the investigations against the members of the LTTE, he said.

His response was implying that there was a concerted move by powerful Establishments to prosecute the Tamil diaspora activists associated with the LTTE with an intent to portray them as terrorists, purely for Establishment-centric political reasons.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor twice decided it was not wise to accuse the LTTE as a criminal organisation as there was not enough evidence pointing in that direction, he said. But they were subsequently influenced from outside to change their decision, Bosonnet observed.

European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit the EuroJust and the law enforcement agency of the European Union, the Europol, were influencing the Swiss public prosecutor.

“We are convinced that we were in a political battle,” he said.

Switzerland was in a very special situation. On the one hand, Switzerland was part of the peace talks and gave help to both the parties during the peace process. But, on the other side, in 2009, and in fact as early as in 2007, Switzerland started the criminal investigation against those who it earlier invited for peace talks, he said.

There are clear signs that Switzerland and Sri Lankan authorities were extensively exchanging information with each other during the lengthy process of investigation. The Sri Lankan State was providing a lot of information, which was used in the Court by the Swiss Public Prosecutor. Now, the Court has discredited this information, which is significant, Bosonnet implied.

Newspaper clippings and the information provided by the Sri Lankan Police is not enough to convince the Courts, he said.

The verdict will also be useful to members of similar organisations who came to Switzerland, and it is precedent-setting in this sense too, he observed.

“I think we have many arguments now, with this decision, that would help this organisation in the future.”

It should also be noted here that the case was opened before the times of Brexit and that the UK was playing a central role in the case against the LTTE at the European Union.

The active contribution by the Tamil diaspora in Switzerland and other countries was inspiring, Bosonnet said.

LTTE case in Switzerland
Eezham Tamils in Switzerland protesting in support of the Tamil activists in Switzerland

The lawyers needed a lot of information, and the Tamil community in Switzerland and from the other countries were of much help in collecting the details, he added.

Bosonnet said the attempt to divide the Tamils in Switzerland through the proceedings in the criminal court was also spoiled.

Eight of the thirteen accused persons, who belonged to the WTCC at the time of their fundraising, were acquitted of all the charges. The remaining three were found guilty of fraud and were given suspended sentences between 20 and 24 months.

Viraj Mendis
Viraj Mendis
“The fact of the matter is that the prosecutor, in order to prove that the LTTE was a terrorist and a criminal organisation rehearsed the most outrageous Sinhala chauvinist arguments,” said exiled Sinhala activist Viraj Mendis, who has been supporting the cause of Eezham Tamils for more than 35 years.

Viraj was taking a keen interest in providing material evidence as well as mobilising solidarity around the globe during the lengthy prosecution, Tamil activists in Switzerland said.

His organisation, Internationaler Menschenrechteverein Bremen, based in Germany, has been mobilising solidarity from Ecuador to Japan. Basque activists, Rohingya activists as well as the Korean peace movement and Japanese peace activists took part in the campaign along with May 17 Movement in Tamil Nadu also contributing to the success of the campaign, he noted in a statement issued on Friday.

“It is a riposte to the political steamroller by those international forces that supported the military solution in Sri Lanka – the political steamroller that justifies their position – which can only be done if the Tamil side is criminalised and blamed for the terrible events in 2009. This court decision has opened up a political space for the Eelam Tamils in the homeland and well as in the Diaspora,” Viraj further said.

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External Links:
Swissinfo.ch: No jail for Swiss Tamil Tiger financiers
Humanrights.de: Swiss court decision is a historic victory for the Eelam Tamil struggle



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