Post-war probe on LTTE activity:Top Swiss team due in Colombo soon

The Swiss authorities are flying in legal officers of the Federal State Prosecutor’s office, the Swiss Federal criminal police, translators and defense counsels into Sri Lanka to investigate LTTE activities. They will question 26 witnesses.

The following is the translation of an article published in Neue Zurcher Zeitung, a leading Swiss newspaper, captioned ‘Expedition Colombo of the Federal Prosecutors’

The report by Andreas Schmid was carried in the July 20 issue

The Federal Prosecutors office is not sparing any effort in the case lodged against the Swiss branch of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Up to now 120 witnesses and informants have been questioned in Switzerland with regard to the suspected criminal activities of the Tamil Tigers.

The case is connected with illegally procured monies being willfully diverted. In 130 instances, between 70,000 and 100,000 Swiss Francs had been used for the Tamil Tigers in their battles in Sri Lanka. Interrogation of 30 persons is still pending.

The 15 member delegation will be in Sri Lanka from 3rd to the 12th of September 2012 . According to a Swiss government official, statements of each witness will be recorded by a Police Officer. Two statements will be recorded simultaneously by the prosecutors and the defense to save money and time. The defense will be allowed to take an extra person in order to facilitate the recording of their evidence so that it will be comprehensive and complete. This initiative will cost the Federal prosecutor a six figure sum. The government official did not divulge the exact amount because the matter was sub judice.

One of the defense Counsel, Marcel Bosonnet was critical about the mission. He maintained that 14 of the 26 witnesses expected to give evidence were at the moment in detention. In fact, he stated 25 of them were at one time or the other under arrest. He maintains that UN and NGO reports indicate that they would have been tortured. Evidence extracted under torture is not valid under the UN conventions. Therefore, getting evidence in Sri Lanka will not lead to the truth. The defense cannot call for any witnesses as they will be identified in Sri Lanka as sympathizers of the Tigers and their lives will be in danger.

This was taken into account by the Prosecutors office, emphasized Balmer, a spokesman of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. This was the reason why the Prosecuting Attorney, a lady lawyer, insisted that the defense should also be present at the interrogation. The comprehensive right of the defense will enable the defense to come to their own conclusions, in situ, regarding the position of the witnesses. The witnesses will be asked during the questioning whether they were tortured.

Initially, Bosonnet considered not to fly to Sri Lanka. As half a dozen other lawyers of the defense are travelling, he has realized that his influence is dependent on his participation as: “If one is not present, one can not ask questions,” said Bosonnet. Still he is not convinced about the strategy of the prosecutors. He stated that it is not quite clear as to why the 26 witnesses are so important for this case and also wanted to know from whom information for the case was obtained. “This could only have come from Sri Lankan officials” maintained Bosonnet.

Balmer explained that questioning will lead to verifying the impounded evidence in Switzerland. Following up on what was gathered by the Federal criminal police, further evidence was found in Sri Lanka by Federal investigators.

Apart from Switzerland, others such as the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands are conducting cases against members of the Tamil Tigers. The authorities in the Netherlands, have deviated from standard practice and are planning in Autumn to question the Chief Financial Officer of the LTTE, who is under arrest.

Legal circles maintain that never has such a costly venture been undertaken abroad by the Federal Prosecutors Office. Jeannette Balmer did not make a comparison with other instances but stated “The Federal Prosector’s Office does focus on cases abroad. Travelling is an inevitable part of the expenses”.

Since the Spring of 2009, the Prosecutors office have lodged cases against many Tamils in Switzerland. Over a dozen leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been accused of laundering money, belonging to criminal organizations for threats and extortion. Among others is the former chief of the Tamil Tigers in Switzerland, the Finance Chief and his Secretary. They have been apprehended and have been under investigation.

The proceedings commenced in 2009, but they were set aside till 2011, when, subsequent, to several raids in different cantons following up on criminal acts eight persons were put under arrest. Since April last year they are all free but the legal process continues. “The end of the cases is expected in 2013” said Jeannette Balmer, the spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s office.

The investigations are in keeping with the rogatory agreement of the two countries signed in 2010, where a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance is entertained. The most common remedies sought by the rogatory procedure are the assistance for the legal process and the facilitation to record evidence. The questioning will be conducted under the practices of Swiss Justice and the Swiss Ministry of Justice will support the investigations stated Balmer.


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