SL-Swiss diplomatic relations turn sour as embassy employee temporarily banned from travel

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 02:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Court issues temporary travel ban on Swiss embassy employee
  • Ban comes hours after Swiss Foreign Office questions MFA statement casting doubt on sequence of events on detention of employee
  • Swiss authorities maintain victim not in good health, hence unable to give statement
  • CID sought travel ban to record statement from employee midst reports she was to leave country
  • Travel ban in place till 9 December

The diplomatic row between Sri Lanka and Switzerland, over the alleged detention of one of its local staffers, is set to aggravate further after the Colombo Magistrate’s Court yesterday gave an order barring the female officer at the centre of the controversy from leaving the country.

The Court Order came hours after the State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDAD) Pascale Baeriswyl asked Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Switzerland, based in Berlin, Karunasena Hettiarachchi to explain the purported evidence against the sequence of events described by the Embassy, which the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alluded to in a press release on Sunday. Hettiarachchi met with Baeriswyl in Bern on Monday, following several demarches from the FDFA over the incident concerning the Swiss Embassy employee.

The overseas travel ban on the employee was imposed yesterday by Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne after the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) reported the incident to court. Police requested the travel ban be issued so that a statement can be recorded from the alleged victim. The travel ban will be in place till 9 December.

Sri Lanka insists that the investigation into the incident cannot proceed without a statement from the victim, while the Swiss authorities have maintained she is in poor health and is not able to give a statement at the moment.

The Swiss Foreign Affairs official Baeriswyl told Sri Lanka’s Ambassador that Switzerland supports measures to investigate and settle this matter by due process of law, but the employee concerned still cannot be questioned on health grounds, while stressing that the individual's health must take priority.

“Ms. Baeriswyl emphasised to the Sri Lankan Ambassador that the FDFA would support all measures to investigate and resolve this matter by due process of law. She also indicated that while Switzerland had no interest in delaying investigations by the Sri Lankan authorities, the FDFA takes its responsibilities to its staff very seriously,” the FDFA said in a news release yesterday.

She also questioned the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Colombo on Sunday, which said the Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka has been presented with “clear evidence that the sequence of events and timeline of the alleged incident, as formally presented by the Swiss Mission on behalf of the alleged victim to the CID, did not in any way correspond with the actual movements of the alleged victim on that date, as borne out by witness interviews and technical evidence, including Uber records, CCTV footage, telephone records and the GPS data.”

Baeriswyl responded to the statement issued by the MFA and asked Ambassador Hettiarachchi to explain the purported evidence against the events described by the Embassy, which the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alluded to in its press release.

The Swiss official also affirmed to Ambassador Hettiarachchi that Switzerland remained ready to take the necessary steps to restore confidence between Switzerland and Sri Lanka.