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Swiss explain Nigerian death to torture panel

Swiss officials have responded to criticism from a United Nations panel seeking more information on why a young Nigerian asylum seeker died while being deported.

This content was published on May 3, 2010 - 17:16

The testimony was part of a periodic review before the UN Committee against Torture and Repression.

The last time Switzerland testified was in 2005. This time Swiss officials reaffirmed a “zero tolerance” policy toward torture and repression, but some panelists still haboured concerns.

The UN committee was particularly worried about the lack of independent observers during deportations and the health condition of denied asylum seekers.

Christian Zumwald from the Swiss Federal Migration Office told the panel that the question of having observers ultimately rests with parliament but a review on the matter is currently underway.

Zumwald said Switzerland would “draw lessons” from an incident on March 17 when a deported Nigerian, a drug dealer who had been on a hunger strike, died in Zurich after being forcibly restrained for a special flight back to Lagos.

Two of the ten-member panel were also concerned that an initiative sponsored by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to expel foreign criminals could lead to conflicts with the law.

Abdoulaye Gaye of Senegal, the rapporteur for Switzerland, said the initiative goes against the idea of non-repression.

The case of Abu Omar popped up as well. The imam was kidnapped by United States intelligence agents in 2003 in Milan and was taken to an American base in Germany via Swiss airspace. Swiss prosecutors suspended their investigation in 2007. Under questioning, a foreign ministry spokesman said the investigation could be picked up again.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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