Bern refused US offer over Jihadist repatriation

US presence: an American military convoy is seen in the village of Khirbet Ammu, Syria, February 12 Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The United States offered several times to repatriate three Swiss Jihadists detained in Syria, an offer that Switzerland refused, the Le Temps newspaper has said. 

This content was published on February 21, 2020 - 11:40
Le Temps/RTS/

The original proposal dated back to 2018, Le Temps said on ThursdayExternal link. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFAExternal link) apparently received a letter offering to repatriate the men and their families to a Swiss airport for $500,000 (CHF491,000). 

The offer was refused on account of the price, which was judged indefensible if it became public, Le Temps reported.  

At the time the Swiss government had not drawn up their policy on repatriation of “Jihadi travellers”. This came several months later, in March 2019, when the Swiss government said that Swiss citizens who went to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State should face trial under international legal standards in the country where they committed their crimes.  

+ Switzerland refuses to repatriate its jihadists External link

Le Temps noted that Bern has not banned Jihadis from returning to Switzerland but does not intervene to ensure their repatriation. 

In reaction, the FDFA said in the Le Temps article that it was examining measures to repatriate children and that it had declined the American offer “because it involves whole families and raises legal and financial issues”. 

According to Le Temps, the US offer still stands and could be negotiated. For example, Washington recently repatriated Jihadis to some Balkan countries for free. 

Situation worse 

The situation has got worse in Syria since the original offer, Swiss public television RTS, which picked up the storyExternal link, pointed out. Some experts say that due to the risk of escape from Kurdish captors, it would better guarantee Switzerland’s security to repatriate the Swiss jihadists. Two of them held important positions within IS. 

Swiss politician Carlo Sommaruga, who has long argued for Jihadi travellers to be returned, told RTS that he was surprised to learn that Washington’s offer was still allegedly on the table. 

“Repatriation is controversial because it’s difficult to put these Jihadis on trial on Switzerland, especially because there are only some elements of proof that you can only find on the ground. Much of this is held by the Americans who have confiscated a huge amount of data which belongs to the Islamic State organisation,” Sommaruga told RTS. He added that discussions would be needed with the US to gain access to these elements of proof. 

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