Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The Chinese Embassy in Bern 18 December warned the Swiss government over offers to take two brothers, inmates at the US Guantanamo centre in Cuba, but Bern says it was already clear that China was not happy, and the diplomatic issues were already under review. The Chinese warning surfaced in Swiss media this week when Le Matin Thursday published the story, later confirmed by the Swiss Police and Justice (SPJ) office.
The warning letter in fact came at a time of some confusion over Swiss offers to take Guantanamo detainees, the SPJ ministry has told media. One canton, Geneva, has to date officially offered, with federal government support, to take one inmate, an Ouzbek man.
SPJ Minister and Federal Councilor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf gave this information to journalists at a press conference 16 December, which prompted canton Jura to say publicly that it was willing to take two Chinese Uighurs. It had already announced its interest in taking them, but had not officially communicated this to federal Police and Justice authorities.
The canton’s public announcement saying it would like to take the Uighurs sparked the letter from the Chinese Embassy two days later.
The SPJ has labeled the lack of coordination between the canton and the federal government a “misunderstanding” and the two are meeting later in January to review the possibility of welcoming the two men. The diplomatic situation has been clear from the outset, when Switzerland in early 2009 said it would consider US President Obama’s request for other countries to accept some of the detainees, points out an SPJ spokesperson. A Swiss delegation had selected the two Uighur brothers as well as the Ouzbek man as the three detainees the country would consider accepting.
China considers the two Uighurs, part of a minority population, to be terrorists who should be returned to China, and this was made clear several months ago, says the SPJ. Switzerland and China in December 2009 signed an agreement to pursue a free trade agreement, after a year-long feasibility study, and Economics Minister Doris Leuthard has made it clear that accepting the Uighurs could have negative economic implications that should be taken into consideration.