Berne, December 22 (newsin.asia): Switzerland wants Sri Lanka to ensure that in the proceedings related to the alleged abduction of one of its embassy’s local staff, the principle of “presumption of innocence” is followed and that the health status of the alleged victim of abduction is given due consideration.
A press release of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said on Thursday that Swiss ambassadors Jorg Frieden and Hanspeter Mock met the Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and “stressed that in the present case, the principle of the presumption of innocence applies and that the health and safety of its embassy staff take priority.”
The press release further said that during his telephone conversation with Gunawardena, Swiss Foreign Ignazio Cassis pointed out that the “high level of media coverage, lack of privacy safeguards and public statements prejudging the outcome of the proceedings in this case not only endangered Swiss embassy staff but also eroded the trust and confidence required to jointly clarify the incident.”
Cassis was making a veiled reference to the fact that both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena have already stated publicly, that the victim of the alleged abduction, Mrs.Garnier Banister Francis, is guilty of fabricating a story of abduction with the ulterior motive of discrediting the President and the government of Sri Lanka.
The media too has been putting out stories portraying Mrs. Francis as being part of an opposition party’s plot to discredit the President and the new government formed after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory in the November 16 Presidential election. Some said that the abduction drama had been enacted to secure for Mrs.Francis, asylum in Switzerland.
Federal Councilor (Foreign Minister) Ignazio Cassis phoned his Sri Lankan counterpart, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, on 18 December 2019 to inform him that Switzerland was sending former ambassador Jörg Frieden to Sri Lanka. Under the lead of this experienced diplomat, possibilities for clarifying the security incident at the Swiss embassy in Colombo are to be explored, the FDFA release said.
Cassis also emphasized that the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) considers the health and safety of its staff to be paramount, and that it is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that these are protected in the further proceedings.
Victim Should Be Moved to Hospital
The press release went on to say that “Mr.Cassis also expressed his regret at the decision by the examining magistrate to place the local employee concerned in pre-trial detention, where the conditions do not take into account her state of health in any way. He therefore asked Mr Gunawardena to transfer her to a more appropriate location, such as a hospital, on humanitarian grounds. Switzerland considers the Sri Lankan authorities to be responsible for the health and safety of all its embassy staff.”
Cassis emphasized that Switzerland is keen to clarify the incident together with the Sri Lankan authorities, which is why an experienced diplomat, former ambassador Jörg Frieden, had been sent to Colombo.
Mr Frieden is expected to explore possible solutions in communication with the Sri Lankan authorities, and thus lend support to the Swiss embassy. This additional contact at the diplomatic level is also intended to strengthen the basis of trust between Switzerland and Sri Lanka.
Lanka’s Reputation At Stake
The release further said: “The Swiss ambassador in Colombo, Hanspeter Mock, had already underlined at a meeting on Tuesday with the Sri Lankan Attorney General that in this high-profile case, Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law was at stake.”
(The featured image at the top shows Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis)