Switzerland refuses to repatriate its jihadists

The policy proposals by Justice Minister Keller-Sutter (archive photo) about Swiss jihadists were confirmed by the Swiss government. Keystone/Anthony Anex

The Swiss government has rejected calls to actively repatriate Islamic militants with Swiss nationality from Syria or Iraq.

This content was published on March 8, 2019 - 15:11

Swiss citizens will not be prevented from returning to the country, according to a government statement published on Friday, but authorities want the jihadists to be tried under international legal standards in the country where they committed their crimes.

“Switzerland could help set up a special international court and possibly support the law enforcement with suitable means,” said the government.

Under Swiss law, membership of the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) jihadist groups is a punishable offence.

“Switzerland’s security and the protection of its population have top priority,” the government said. Therefore all measures available will be taken to prevent an uncontrolled return of jihadists to Switzerland, including close cooperation with other members of the European single border Schengen agreement.

The government said its strategy is also meant to serve as a guideline for cantonal and judicial authorities when considering individual cases.

There are currently about 20 suspected jihadists – men, women and minors - with Swiss passports, some of them in custody of non-state powers in Syria and Iraq.

Last month, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told public radio RTS that she preferred the Swiss jihadists be tried “on the spot” for security reasons.

Switzerland is among many European countries which are under pressure by the US President Donald Trump to repatriate their nationals arrested in Syria.

Latest figures by the Federal Intelligence Service show that 93 jihadist “travellers” have left Switzerland for conflict areas since 2001, of whom 78 have gone to Syria and Iraq. Of these, 27 have been confirmed killed and 16 have returned to Switzerland.

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