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Human rights groups slam government's Iraq policy

Swiss NGOs have called on the government to ensure the respect of international law in Iraq

(Keystone)

The Swiss government is facing fresh criticism over its handling of the Iraq crisis.

Amnesty International and the Europe-Third World Centre (ETWC) said the government had failed to condemn the war, and it called on Bern to press for human rights observers to be sent to Iraq.

The two organisations said on Thursday they were disappointed that the government had only expressed its "regrets" when war broke out.

They added that international law had been flouted in Iraq, and called on Switzerland to condemn the war as incompatible with international law.

Amnesty and the ETWC also demanded an end to sales of weapons to the United States and Britain and for all war criminals to be taken to court, regardless of their nationality.

A formal appeal signed by NGOs, trade unions and parliamentarians is to be handed over to the Swiss authorities.

Arms deal

Speaking on Thursday, a Green Party parliamentarian, Franziska Teuscher, accused the Swiss government of prematurely announcing that the war was over so a deal to supply fighter jets to the US could go ahead.

Bern banned the sale of weapons to the warring sides during the fighting, but then decreed the war was over on April 16, before the coalition forces took the same step.

Teuscher said a lucrative Swiss contract to supply 32 second-hand Tiger fighter jets to the US would have fallen through had the first aircraft not been delivered by the end of April.

Florian Rochat, the head of the ETWC, said he had doubts that the war was effectively over in Iraq, given that the country is still occupied by American and British troops.

He also accused the United Nations of damaging its credibility by accepting the occupation of Iraq for an unspecified period.

War crimes

Daniel Bolomey, general secretary of Amnesty Switzerland, said the coalition forces had committed a variety of war crimes during the Iraq offensive, including using fragmentation bombs against towns and cities.

Amnesty is investigating reports that Iraqi soldiers were shot or tortured after being apprehended by coalition troops.

It has also called on European states to refrain from sending Iraqi refugees home too soon. According to Amnesty, the insecurity reigning in Iraq will probably last months, if not years, making any return hazardous for refugees.

There are around two million Iraqi exiles and another million displaced people within Iraq. Approximately 50,000 Iraqis made asylum requests in Western nations last year.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Two Swiss NGOs have accused the government of being too passive during the Iraq crisis.

They have called on the authorities to ensure international law is respected.

They have also demanded that the Swiss government stop weapons sales to Britain and the United States so long as both countries occupy Iraq.

Amnesty International has also accused coalition forces of committing war crimes, including the use of cluster bombs against towns and cities and the execution and torture of Iraqi prisoners of war.

Amnesty has requested international observers be sent to Iraq, and that suspected war criminals be put on trial.

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