Swiss shelter for Guantanamo inmates will 'harm relations'

By Ai Yang and Wang Rui (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-05 07:58
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China said yesterday that its ties with Switzerland will be undermined by the Swiss government's decision to accept two Uygurs detained in Guantanamo Bay.

Switzerland on Wednesday agreed to help two Uygur brothers settle in the country despite repeated protests from the Chinese government.

Arkin Mahnut, 45, and his brother Bahtiar, 32, are among seven Uygurs who remain at Guantanamo, a Cuba-based detention center operated by the United States.

"These men are suspected members of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China has already declared its position to Switzerland on this matter." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu said at a regular briefing yesterday. He said all countries including Switzerland are obliged to follow international regulations and no country should accept them.

According to UN Security Council Resolution 1373, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, all states shall deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens.

In response to a Swiss National Radio correspondent's question on whether the row will have any consequences for the ongoing discussions on a free trade agreement between the two countries, Ma said: "The ties between the two countries will surely be affected."

The Swiss decision came within a week of China's Vice- Premier Li Keqiang concluding his formal visit to the country in late January for talks on the creation of a free trade area. He asked both sides to push for its realization.

The decision by Switzerland to give a home to the brothers could allow the Obama administration to avoid a difficult Supreme Court argument over whether a judge can order detainees released into the US.

US President Barack Obama has already missed the deadline to shut down the prison as promised one year ago and Washington is still looking for places for the remaining Guantanamo detainees to go.

"America does not want any East Turkistan terrorists itself but it is not returning them to China either. Instead it is sending them to a third country. This will definitely affect its relations with China," said Jin Canrong, an expert in international affairs at Renmin University of China.

ETIM has been listed as an international terrorist network by China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the US and the UN.

He said general support for Obama in the West as well as Western countries disagreements with China over Tibet and Xinjiang have contributed to Switzerland's acceptance of the two Uygur suspects.

"The Obama administration is trying to release the detainees, and Western countries have taken a supportive stance (by offering them shelter)," Jin said.

Albania, Bermuda and Palau have already accepted Uygurs from Guantanamo despite China's protests. Last month Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu had said the suspects should be handed over to Chinese authorities and face trials.

(China Daily 02/05/2010 page11)