Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

  • Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied
  • One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland

ZURICH: Switzerland’s parliament approved allowing convicted militants to be sent home to countries where they could face torture, leaving the government to decide how to implement the motion without breaking international law.
The Swiss constitution bans expelling people to countries where they might be subject to torture. But parlimament’s upper house on Tuesday narrowly adopted a motion allowing exceptions for foreign militants, as the Swiss lower house had done.
The motion stems from discontent among lawmakers over the ability of Iraqi militants convicted in Swiss courts of aiding Daesh to avoid being sent home because of the ban on exposing people to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Conservative critics say the ban has cost taxpayer money to care for convicted militants and angered citizens who say Switzerland should not have to host such people on its soil.
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied.
“The security of the Swiss population has top priority but we also have to adhere to the limits of the rule of law.”
One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland. Freed from prison, he now lives in a transit center for asylum seekers and is fighting extradition.
Switzerland said this month it would not help bring home its own stranded citizens who had joined extremist forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.
Switzerland is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture, which bars expulsions of people to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Iraq is also a party to the convention, but lacks laws or guidelines providing for judicial action when defendants allege torture or mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. It said torture was rampant in Iraq’s justice system.


Malaysia’s Mahathir ousted from party amid power struggle

Updated 1 min 16 sec ago

Malaysia’s Mahathir ousted from party amid power struggle

  • Bersatu party has been split into two camps
  • Mahathir Mohamad co-founded Bersatu with Muhyiddin Yassin in 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has been ousted from his ethnic Malay political party in the latest twist of a power struggle with his successor, but he has vowed to challenge the move.
The 94-year-old Mahathir, along with his son and three other senior members, were expelled from the Bersatu party on Thursday.
The party has been split into two camps since intense political wrangling led Mahathir to resign as prime minister in February and the king to appoint fellow party member Muhyiddin Yassin as his replacement despite Mahathir’s objections.
Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz Mahathir, has since challenged Muhyiddin as party president in a vote that’s been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The unilateral action by Bersatu’s president to sack us without valid reason is due to his own fears in facing party elections as well as his unsafe position as the most unstable prime minister in the history of the country’s administration,” a joint statement by Mahathir and the four others said.
Mahathir co-founded Bersatu with Muhyiddin in 2016, and the party joined an alliance that won a stunning victory in 2018 polls, leading to the first change of government since independence.
The ruling alliance collapsed after Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out to work with the former government, which has been accused of massive corruption. Mahathir, a two-time prime minister, resigned in protest.
Mahathir has said he still has the majority support of lawmakers and has called for a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin. The vote has been delayed amid the pandemic but could be held at the next sitting of Parliament in July.
In their statement, Mahathir and the other expelled members said the move was illegal and they may take legal action to challenge their termination and ensure Bersatu isn’t used as a vehicle for those crazy for power.
Party letters sent to the five said their membership had ceased as they sat with the opposition bloc during a half-day Parliament sitting on May 18. But the letter was signed by a lower official who Mahathir’s group and others said had no power to remove them.
“All eyes are on Mahathir’s next move,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “Muhyiddin would be gravely mistaken if he thinks this will slow down Mahathir’s relentless onslaught to not so much unseat him, but topple the present ruling coalition.”
Muhyiddin had earlier tried to reconcile with Mahathir, but failed.
The current government includes the party of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is on trial on charges related to a massive financial scandal.

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