Swiss Federal court refuses all legal aid to Iran

2010/03/15

Published in Swiss daily newspaper “Neue Züricher Zeitung” on 15. March 2010
Source (German): http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/schweiz/bundesstrafgericht_verweigert_iran_jegliche_rechtshilfe_1.5220149.html
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

The federal court categorically denies legal aid to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. (Picture: Reuters)

Swiss Federal court issues a firm no because of the precarious human rights situation.

The federal court categorically refuses any legal aid to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. The judges in the city of Bellinzona in Switzerland did not believe Iran would respect human rights even if Iran was to explicitly guarantee this.

(sda) The Islamic Republic will receive no legal aid from Switzerland. This was decided by the federal court which justified the decision with the human rights situation in Iran. However, the Federal Office of Justice would have granted legal aid under clearly defined conditions.

In 2006, the Islamic Republic had requested legal assistance from Switzerland in a fraud case. The case goes back to a Portuguese man who lives today with his family in Cyprus. He was supposed to have received 120 million U.S dollars from the Iranian government so he could purchase an Airbus.

According to statements in Iran’s plea, he put the money in his own pocket and used it to pay bribes. The funds were transferred through different accounts and partially delivered to his family members.

List of Court Demands
Switzerland was asked for documents relating to bank accounts of those affected and for the blocking of the accounts. The federal prosecutor agreed to give legal aid in 2009 but left it up to the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) to demand guarantees from Iran if necessary.

As a result, the FOJ created a list of demands. Iran should ensure the physical and mental integrity of the detained persons be preserved. Moreover, neither physical punishment nor the death penalty be imposed on them, nor will they be trialed in a special court.

The presumption of innocence in criminal procedures and the right of the accused to defense were to be protected. Additionally, Swiss representatives should be able to visit defendants at any time. The Federal Criminal Court has upheld a complaint from the Portuguese man and his family. Since then, any continuation of legal aid was categorically prohibited.

Swiss Sanctions Hardly Deterring
According to the decision by the judges in Bellinzona, it is clear that serious human rights violations are occurring in Iran. The UN had found cases of torture, physical abuse, enforcement of the death penalty, arbitrary arrests, and unfair prosecutions.

Not even the submission of a guarantee bond could reduce the risk of violations of human rights to a tolerable level. It should be observed that Iran does not abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, and does not recognize its international obligations and instructions given by the UN Security Council.

Iran even accepts the risk of possible embargos on various goods. With this history, it seems questionable whether any measures taken by Switzerland in case of violations of the guarantee bond would have a deterring effect. Thus, Iran’s plea can by no means be approved. What was left out of the decision were the considerations of the FOJ that a refusal of legal aid will not help improve the Iranian human rights situation, and Switzerland most likely just contributes to the fact that those who benefit from corruption will go unpunished.

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