Swiss friend of refugees dies aged 95

August Lindt, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (pictured), has died in Berne aged 95. He was also well-known as a journalist and international diplomat.

This content was published on April 17, 2000 - 14:30

August Lindt, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has died in Berne aged 95. He was also well-known as a journalist and international diplomat.

Lindt was dedicated to the ideal that Swiss neutrality should not prevent the country from playing a global role.

He began his career as a journalist in the 1920s, working throughout the following decade in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He covered the 1931 Manchurian Crisis for the Swiss press. He was also based in Britain for some time.

During the Second World War he was a founder-member of a group of Swiss officers strongly opposed to any compromise with Nazi Germany.

After war he brought relief to the victims of Nazism through his work with the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross. He was an ICRC special delegate in Berlin in 1945 and 1946. Thereafter, he was Switzerland's observer at the newly-founded United Nations.

Lindt became the UN High Commissioner for Refugees when the UNHCR was still in its infancy, and did much to shape the organisation as it is today. One of the major tasks facing the organisation, established in 1951, was assisting the post-World War Two refugees still living in displaced persons' camps across Europe.

Towards the end of his mandate, Lindt said: "It is quite incongruous that in a Europe which is more prosperous than ever in history, it is still possible to find refugees living in misery ... There is absolutely no earthly justification for the continuation of this state of affairs." He launched a successful drive to close the camps and resettle the refugees.

After the end of his UNHCR mandate in 1960, he embarked on a diplomatic career for Switzerland, and was ambassador to Washington from 1960 to 1962. He later represented his country in the USSR and India.

However, he remained dedicated to the cause of refugees. He led the ICRC's operation in Nigeria during the Biafra War in 1968 and 1969. Although he retired officially in 1970, he stayed active in his areas of interest. During the 1980s he supported the lobby group "Asile-Asyl-Asilo", which worked for a reform in Switzerland's asylum laws.

Lindt continued to publish until his death. His last book, "Sardineöl gegen Wodka", an analysis of diplomacy during the Cold War, appeared two years ago.

swissinfo with agencies

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