Report vindicates Swiss over Argentine disappearance

A report has vindicated Switzerland's handling of the disappearance of a Chilean-Swiss dual national in Argentina in 1977, which is at the centre of an extradition request for the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

This content was published on February 4, 2000 - 22:28

A report has vindicated Switzerland's handling of the case of a Chilean-Swiss dual national who went missing in Argentina in 1977. The disappearance of Alexei Jaccard came back into the spotlight following Switzerland's request for the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

The report by two eminent professors rejects accusations that the Swiss authorities did little to find out what happened to Jaccard.

Jaccard was one of a number of Swiss who disappeared in Chile and Argentina during the period of military rule in the 1970s and 1980s.

A communist, he went missing on May 17 1977, two days after arriving in Buenos Aires from Geneva, where was studying. It was always assumed that he'd been kidnapped, but the circumstances surrounding his disappearance remain shrouded in mystery.

A request by Geneva magistrates for the extradition of Pinochet, based on a complaint by Jaccard's wife is still pending. She alleges that Pinochet ordered her husband's disappearance.

The extradition request rekindled accusations that the Swiss government had not done enough to find out Jaccard's fate.

A year ago the Swiss foreign ministry commissioned law professor Dietrich Schindler, from Zürich University, and Geneva history professor Antoine Fleury to look into how the case had been handled by Switzerland.

Their report says Swiss diplomats recognised the importance of the case immediately and treated it in an "exceptional" manner. The matter was taken up at the highest levels, including a meeting in Rome between the Argentine junta leader, General Jorge Videla, and the Swiss foreign minister Pierre Aubert.

The authors of the report did question whether pressure could have been brought to bear on Videla sooner. They also said that Swiss industrialists and bankers did nothing to shed light on the case.

"Only the Foreign Ministry has been constantly and heavily involved," the report says.

The professors had access to all diplomatic papers, and say the dossier on Jaccard is remarkably comprehensive. They also underline the importance of the media and the Jaccard action committee in Geneva, which kept the case alive.

The report says Switzerland's trump card in trying to find the truth about Jaccard's disappearance was the close trading relationship between this country and Argentina.

Buenos Aires was very keen to maintain Swiss investment. Switzerland feared the possible loss of compensation for nationalised firms, and was also concerned that a diplomatic rupture could harm the many Swiss living in Argentina

The professors said it was unfortunate that Swiss secret agents never got involved in the case to ascertain Jaccard's whereabouts.

The Swiss foreign ministry says the file on Jaccard is still very much open. It filed a request to Argentina as recently as October 1998 for information on the fate of Jaccard.

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