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NGOs take Swiss president to task over security at Davos

NGOs accuse the authorities of turning Davos into a fortress


Non-governmental organisations have written to the president, Moritz Leuenberger, to protest at the scale of the security operation at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos.

In their letter, they accuse the authorities of transforming the ski resort into a fortress and say the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression has been severely restricted.

They call on the government to review its policing strategy and to ensure the right of peaceful demonstration at future summits.

NGOs that signed up to the letter included Greenpeace International, Oxfam and Amnesty International.

Their action stopped short of an earlier threat by five NGOs to pull out of the Forum but the letter says the credibility of Davos is now threatened.

The NGOs have also written to the founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, to ask for the event's sponsors to declare their support for the right of free assembly.

They called on the organisers to make a public statement by September about arrangements to ensure that free speech would be allowed at Davos 2002.

The World Economic Forum issued a statement applauding the spirit of the NGO letter and said it shared the desire to promote dialogue, the right of free expression and non-violence.

It said it looked forward to discussing ways to accommodate peaceful protest but said it hoped that would be matched from the other side to take strong measures to ensure that peaceful protest did not turn violent.

The Swiss authorities banned demonstrations in Davos for the duration of the World Economic Forum. On Saturday, police used water cannon to disperse hundreds of people who'd managed to reach the town to protest against globalisation.

Police later fought pitched battles with protesters in Zurich who rampaged through the city burning cars and damaging buildings.

On Monday evening, several hundred youths took part in fresh anti-globalisation protests in the capital, Bern, and Geneva. Police made a dozen arrests after a group went on the rampage in a McDonald's restaurant, smashing windows and causing other damage.

The Swiss government has rejected criticism of the weekend's security operation which is estimated to have cost SFr5 million ($3 million).

By Michael Hollingdale


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