Switzerland urges Sri Lanka to ensure arrested embassy employee’s rights

Expressing concern over the arrest of an employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has called on the Sri Lankan judicial authorities to ensure better protection of its employee’s personal rights and compliance with national law and international standards.

An employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo has today been detained on the grounds that she allegedly made false statements, the FDFA said issuing a statement on Monday.

“The FDFA is concerned about this development and calls on the Sri Lankan judicial authorities to ensure better protection of its employee’s personal rights in any further proceedings and compliance with national law and international standards.”

The FDFA and the Swiss Embassy in Colombo will continue to meet their responsibilities as an employer and do everything in their power to assist the member of staff concerned, it said.

On 25 November 2019, the local employee of the Swiss Embassy reported that she had been abducted in Colombo to force her to disclose embassy-related information.

Both the victim and the Swiss embassy cooperated fully with the Sri Lankan authorities during the proceedings, the release said.

The FDFA said it has repeatedly called for due process to be followed. “In particular, the FDFA has criticised the 30-hour interrogation to which the employee was subjected over three days despite being in poor health and the public statements by senior Sri Lankan officials questioning her account before the investigations had been completed.”

Following the arrest of its employee, the FDFA said it expects the Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities to comply with national law and international judicial standards and to ensure that the employee’s rights are now better protected.

“As an employer, the FDFA calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to meet their obligations under applicable law and give due consideration to the employee’s poor state of health.”

“Switzerland wishes to emphasise that in this high-profile case Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law is at stake. The FDFA and the Swiss Embassy in Colombo will continue to support their employee as far as possible,” the statement read.

The FDFA also said it has reiterated to the Sri Lankan authorities that it is seeking a common and constructive way forward to resolve the security incident.

On 16 December 2019, the Swiss ambassador in Colombo emphasised this again in a face-to-face meeting with Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, it said.

Mr. Hanspeter Mock, Ambassador of Switzerland in Sri Lanka, called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday morning.

Focusing his attention on recent incident involving a locally recruited official of the Swiss Embassy, the Ambassador stressed that Switzerland harboured no intention to do any harm to Sri Lanka, the President’s Media Division reported.

“We wish to work together for the benefit of both countries. Also we need to overcome this situation of tension and to remove any misunderstanding,” the Swiss Ambassador was quoted as saying.

In response President Rajapaksa had explained to the Ambassador the progress of investigations in to the incident so far.

“It is very well established by now that the alleged abduction is a total fabrication. Irrefutable evidence such as Uber reports, telephone conversations and CCTV footages point to this fact. The Embassy official must have been compelled by some interested parties to bring myself and my government in to disrepute. It is not clear why the alleged victims acted in such a manner,” President observed.

President Rajapaksa said that he saw no wrong in the initial reaction by the Swiss Embassy when this incident was first reported. “It is justifiable. If a member of its staff is in trouble, the Embassy has to intervene”.

President requested the Ambassador to cooperate with the government to conduct the investigation to its end so that the truth would be emerged, the PMD reports.