Government rejects Guantanamo criticism

The arm of a detainee hangs outside his cell inside the Guantanamo camp Keystone

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher has rejected criticism of contacts between the federal prosecutor's office and the prison authorities running the Guantanamo camp.

This content was published on January 31, 2007 - 22:11

Details were revealed earlier this week of moves by the Swiss prosecutor's office to obtain information from Guantanamo detainees about terror suspects held in Switzerland.

"Neither the responsible parliamentary committee nor the federal penal court had any grounds to find fault with the federal prosecutor's actions in 2005 or 2006," Blocher said in a statement read out to the press by a government spokesman.

The government agreed that the proceedings were above board, he added.

His announcement on Wednesday came in response to the disclosure in a parliamentary committee's annual report of the contacts between the Swiss justice officials and United States authorities running the controversial detention centre on Cuba.

The report said that the federal prosecutor's office sent pictures of suspects detained in Switzerland to US authorities, asking them to find out whether detainees held at Guantanamo recognized the suspects.

The spokesman said the prosecutor's office had asked for legal assistance and that no one from the office had been in direct contact with anyone in Guantanamo.

He added that the move to find out whether the suspects in Switzerland had been seen near or in the training camps in Afghanistan had brought no results.

There has been an outcry in the Swiss press and from human rights groups this week over the affair.

Double standards

The government was taken to task for what was seen as its double standards; criticising the US for violating human rights at the camp, while using the Guantanamo inmates to obtain information for its own ends.

Dick Marty, the Swiss senator who investigated illegal CIA prisons in Europe for the Council of Europe, described the Swiss-US contacts as "unacceptable", saying they contravened the European human rights convention.

Marty said the actions by the prosecutor's office helped "legitimise" an "illegal" prison.

His views echoed those of the Swiss branch of Amnesty International. "We are extremely shocked about this information," said spokeswoman Manon Schick.

Schick said it was highly probable that the information was obtained under torture and added that Switzerland, under the United Nations agreement against torture, was prohibited from using information obtained in such a way.

The Swiss foreign ministry in a statement last year had voiced criticism of the detention conditions at Guantanamo. "International law also applies in the... international community's fight against terrorism," the statement said.

"Switzerland wishes - as does the UN secretary-general - that the problems regarding the detention camp Guantanamo be solved as quickly as possible."

swissinfo with agencies

Key dates

January 11, 2002: The first prisoners taken from Afghanistan to Guantanamo.

July 15, 2005: Switzerland calls on US to keep to the Geneva Conventions.

February 16, 2006: 5 UN human rights experts call for Guantanamo to be closed.

June 29, 2006: US Supreme Court rules Bush administration does not have authority to hold military tribunals.

July 12, 2006: US government recognises Geneva Conventions.

January 3, 2007: FBI agents report finds cases of possible mistreatment at Guantanamo.

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