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Former hostages to foot bill for their release

Two Swiss, held hostage in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995, have been ordered to reimburse the expenses incurred by the Swiss government to secure their release.

This content was published on September 19, 2000 - 11:50

The federal court in Lausanne rejected an appeal by the Swiss man and woman, who were seized by Bosnian Serbs in April 1995 and held captive for 34 days.

The foreign ministry had to pay a ransom to set them free, and then sent them a bill for SFr7,700. That was later reduced to SFr5,670, but the pair refused to pay and took their case to Switzerland's highest court.

Their main argument is that they did not commit themselves to any payment. They said that if a bill was to be issued at all it should have been addressed to their relatives, who said at the time they were prepared to pay any costs incurred.

The federal court dismissed this argument as strange.

In its ruling, the judges in Lausanne also recalled an earlier decision according to which consular or diplomatic protection does not depend on written approval by those concerned. They said it was sufficient for the authorities to believe they were acting in the interests of these people.

The two Swiss had been working for a non-governmental organisation called "cultural bridge Switzerland-Sarajevo".

The federal court also ruled that the government was under no obligation to write off the bill, even though the work they were doing for a private association was in the public interest.

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