NGO to press Switzerland for indictment of Saddam Hussein

Could Saddam Hussein soon be indicted in Switzerland on charges of genocide? Keystone Archive

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Britain is set to call on Switzerland to indict the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, on charges of genocide.

This content was published on April 30, 2001 minutes

Indict, based in London, has already persuaded the British authorities to open a preliminary investigation into claims Saddam committed crimes of genocide against ethnic Iraqi Kurds.

The organisation hopes the Swiss authorities will soon launch similar indictment proceedings against Saddam.

Switzerland would be in a position to launch such a case because it has ratified the international convention on genocide. The convention gives signatory countries the authority to investigate crimes committed outside their own national borders.

Indict is now preparing a dossier of evidence which it will shortly present to Geneva's chief public prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa.

Charles Forrest, director of Indict, confirmed in an interview with swissinfo that his organisation was seeking Bertossa's assistance with the indictment because the Swiss prosecutor has consistently shown an interest in global human rights affairs.

"With Mr Bertossa, we have someone who has shown before he is willing to stick his neck out when it comes to issues of international human rights," said Forrest.

Bertossa, who was unavailable for comment concerning possible criminal proceedings against Saddam, has been involved in a number of high-profile legal cases. In 1998, he lobbied the British authorities to extradite the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to Switzerland on charges of assassination, kidnapping and the sequestration of assets.

Switzerland's importance as an international centre was also a decisive factor in the organisation's decision to lobby the public prosecutor.

"As a centre for global affairs," Forrest told swissinfo, "Switzerland has always taken a lead in human rights and international law. Their decision to investigate Saddam would set an important precedent for other countries to follow suit."

Indict cites the fate of figures such as Pinochet and the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. "Until recently," said Forrest, "people thought it would be impossible to bring a case against them. Now we see both these men are facing justice."

Indict has also let it be known it is seeking Switzerland's co-operation because a number of influential Iraqis, including members of Saddam Hussein's government, have often visited and maintained connections with the country.

One of the most prominent Iraqis to be linked with Switzerland, Barzan al-Takriti, served as the country's ambassador to the United Nations and is Saddam Hussein's half-brother.

In addition to its case against Saddam, Indict is preparing to submit evidence concerning eleven other high-ranking Iraqi government officials who, the organisation claims, could also be indicted in Switzerland.

Indict's legal team admits it is unlikely Saddam will be brought to justice or put on trial in Switzerland or elsewhere. But the organisation's ultimate aim, says Forrest, is to create a "net of indictments and extraditions which will make it impossible for people like Saddam to travel without impunity around the world."

Although reluctant to put a timescale on a possible Swiss indictment of Saddam, Indict has made it clear there will be no shortage of evidence when the organisation does submit its dossier to Bertossa's office.

"We know there are victims of crimes of genocide and torture by the Iraqi regime who now live in Switzerland," said Forrest, "as well as Swiss citizens who were taken hostage during the Gulf War."


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