Switzerland to accept one Guantánamo detainee on humanitarian grounds

Keywords: Immigration

Press Release, FDJP, 16.12.2009

Bern. The Federal Council decided today to accept on humanitarian grounds one Uzbek citizen currently held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Canton Geneva has declared itself willing to receive the Uzbeki. The terms of acceptance are governed by a Memorandum of Understanding that was negotiated with the USA and is ready for signature.

In the past, the Federal Council has criticised the detention of persons at Guantánamo as in violation of international law. With its decision today, it aims to play its part in solving the Guantánamo problem, thereby upholding Switzerland's humanitarian tradition. The Federal Council's decision rests on detailed enquiries by an interdepartmental working group, which had access to comprehensive documentation from the US authorities. It also sent a delegation to Guantánamo last August, which spoke at length with the detainee and had him examined by a Swiss doctor.

No Evidence in support of accusations

The USA's accusation that the man has links with terrorist groups has never been proven. As long ago as 2005, the imprisoned Uzbeki was classified by the USA as "cleared for release". The US authorities have assured Switzerland that the man has been neither prosecuted nor convicted, and that he constitutes no danger to public safety. In addition, Switzerland has not had any feedback from any other foreign security authority that would render the transfer unjustifiable. Prognoses about the man's integration into Swiss society, and his health, did not pose any particular problems either.

Application for acceptance by Switzerland

After discussions with the Swiss delegation, the Uzbeki submitted a written application for transfer to Switzerland. He confirmed that he had not been involved in terrorist activity in the past, and that he would not participate in any illegal activities in the future. He further undertook to respect Swiss law, to learn the language of his new home, and to find work. He will live in Canton Geneva, which accepted a request from the federal government.

The Obama administration decided on 22 January 2009 to close the detention facility at Guantánamo as soon as possible. The USA requested that Switzerland and other states consider accepting detainees against whom no charges could be brought. A number of states have already accepted former detainees or decided to do so in the near future.