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Switzerland condemns abuse of Iraqi prisoners

Calmy-Rey has denounced the abuse of Iraqi prisoners Keystone Archive

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has condemned the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by coalition forces.

On Friday she summoned the United States and British ambassadors to express her outrage and denounce the abuse as an unacceptable breach of humanitarian law.

Calmy-Rey said she told both countries that the mistreatment of prisoners contravened international regulations.

During a meeting at the Swiss foreign ministry, she reminded them that Switzerland – as the depository state of the Geneva Conventions – had a special obligation to ensure that humanitarian law was upheld.

“We cannot keep silent about such incidents,” Calmy-Rey said in an interview with the “SonntagsBlick” newspaper.

Her remarks come just days after the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that it had warned Washington a year ago about alleged prisoner abuse.

At the end of last month pictures were published of coalition forces humiliating and mistreating inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.


The foreign ministry said Washington and London had pledged to investigate the reported cases of abuse.

Calmy-Rey called for the perpetrators to be punished and said the US had a special responsibility to respect international humanitarian law.

She added that Switzerland had been asked by the Iraqi interim governing council to lead efforts to monitor human rights in the country.

Calmy-Rey also used her interview with the newspaper to appeal for a swift transition of power in Baghdad and an end to the occupation of Iraq.

In an apparent reference to the US authorities, the Swiss foreign minister said difficulties could not be solved by violence. She reiterated calls for the United Nations and the international community to take a greater role in Iraq.

She added that Switzerland had expressed concern a year ago that military intervention in Iraq could destabilise the whole region.

“It makes me sad to see that our assessment of the situation appears to have been accurate,” said Calmy-Rey.

swissinfo with agencies

Switzerland is the depository state of the Geneva Conventions, which were established in 1949.
They form the backbone of international humanitarian law and contain 140 articles aimed at protecting and assisting civilian and military victims of conflict.
Article 13 stipulates that PoWs must be humanely treated at all times and that they must be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation, and against insults and public curiosity.

The Swiss foreign ministry has summoned the US and British ambassadors to denounce the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Last week the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that it had warned Washington a year ago about alleged mistreatment of Iraqi detainees.

The US has apologised for the prisoner abuse and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice.

Pictures of mistreated and humiliated prisoners caused outrage across the world.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR