As part of an international day of action against Swiss Embassies and Consulates around the world – a small (but perfectly formed) group of mixed pink and silver and black paid a visit to the Swiss Embassy in London this morning, Monday 23rd June 2003. We went there to voice our outrage at the political repression and police brutality during the recent G8 meeting
Two of the group managed to push past the already alerted but unsure security guards and through two doors to get into the main reception area where they made themselves comfortable and demanded to see the consul general.
He duly came down and for the next half an hour we complained and discussed and presented our demands [see below] and asked questions some more and disagreed a lot, and eventually handed over our letter [see below].
After reading it carefully the Consul General Mr Ulrich Huhn promised to fax it over to the big Swiss bosses today and to write a response (at some point god knows when). We then called Martin at Hospital in Switzerland and put him on the phone to the Mr Huhn to chat. All very Swiss and British and civilised I guess but we were glad to have been able to personalised it for him even if only a little.
Meanwhile, outside the building, the more colourful elements of the protest were talking to, and leafleting, both staff and passers by. They were also sending numerous messages on colourful placards to all [see photos to be added later] including Martin and Guy, and all in Barcelona (for their amazing solidarity actions there in the past weeks), the Argentinean Autonomistas and the Zapatistas and the Palestinians, as well as questioning Swiss neutrality etc.
Our banner read: “We demand the right to protest: without police brutality”.
Once we finished at the embassy we went down to the Swiss Centre in Leicester Square that houses the Swiss Tourism Office. Once inside we spent time leafleting and chatting to staff, warning would be tourists there about the safety of Switzerland and checking out their offices and desks a little as well. After asking them to send their complaints about our unexpected and unwelcome visit to the Swiss Government and letting them know to expect regular visits until our demands are met - we left with more ideas as to how to be more effective next time.
LETTER TO SWISS EMBASSY LONDON
Embassy of Switzerland
16-18, Montagu Place
23rd June 2003
Madams and Sirs,
We have come here today in order to formally voice our disgust at the recent human rights violations that occurred in Switzerland. These violent abuses carried out either by the police forces of the Swiss State, or foreign forces operating under Swiss jurisdiction, repeatedly violated the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We challenge these outrages, and the subsequent impunity of police forces operating under a Swiss mandate.
As a signatory to the UN General Assembly, Switzerland is obliged to, “promote respect for these rights and freedoms by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”.
For the last week, and continuing today people all over the world have been actively petitioning the Swiss state to acknowledge its breaches of international protocol, for it to act accountably, and to address these abuses, implementing other articles of the universal declaration relevant to the situation as it stands.
In particular we draw attention to:
Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states;
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 10 of the same treaty states;
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
In accordance with our rights, as stated under these articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we demand the Swiss state recognises the need for, and implements the following actions.
That the Swiss Authorities immediately open, and cooperate with, an independent public enquiry into the complete policing and security policy surrounding the G8 summit, and they implement fully its findings and recommendations. The enquiry body should be monitored or implemented by the legal commission, “Human Rights and Globalisation”.
The immediate suspension of the police officers, and their commanders on scene at the time during the incidents of the cutting of the climbing rope during the Aubonne bridge blockade (which caused the severe injuries of Martin Shaw) and the targeted shooting of independent journalist Guy Smallman.
That the relevant and responsible authorities fully cover all medical and legal costs incurred by those so seriously injured as to need long term medical treatment. This must include payment of all justifiable compensation.
Furthermore, we accuse the Swiss State of contravening articles 5,19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during its policing and security operations surrounding the G8 summit.
Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states;
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
The Swiss police contravened this article on June 1st. The officially sanctioned Bourdonette camp was enclosed by the Swiss police, who proceeded to illegally detain 312 people, 19 of whom were minors. No charges were brought against anybody detained, and no reason was given for the detention.
This is one example of the Swiss Authorities contravention of this article.
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights states;
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
On June 1st, Swiss police cut a climbing rope which suspended two activists from a motorway bridge. One of these activists, Martin Shaw, fell over twenty meters, and remains today in hospital, with, amongst other injuries a broken back, pelvis and foot. The other climber was forced to remain hanging on an unanchored rope, her life balancing in the hands of other protestors, who had caught her before she fell. She remains traumatised by this event. During the moments following this act of brutality, video evidence shows that the police present made little or no effort to assist either in the medical treatment of Martin Shaw, who lay unattended and in continued danger in the river Aubonne, or with the rescue of the other climber. It is clear that the act of cutting a climbing rope that is the only line a citizen has between life and death, is a cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. It is only by lucky coincidence that the Swiss authorities do not now stand charged with contravention of the most crucial of all the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 3, which states;
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
It is sheer chance that both the climbers are not dead, which was the most likely outcome of the action of cutting their rope.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states;
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
On June 1st, police in Geneva raided and closed the L’Usine, a legally sanctioned space that was being used as the headquarters and broadcasting station for an independent group of journalists and media workers.
This international media collective, known as the Independent Media Centre, is widely acknowledged as one of the few remaining voices of a genuinely free, international press. They operate free from the cartels of media tycoons such as Murdoch or Berlusconi, and as such, are free to report what they see, independent of any editorial agenda. To this end, they are often targeted by authorities, including other incidences in the Swiss state in the past. We demand the right to a free and independent press. We demand that they be able to operate uninhibited by brutality and fear, and that they are acknowledged as independent and non-partisan, instead of targeted as a corner stone of the post neo-liberal social movements.
On the same day, in a separate incident, Guy Smallman, an independent photographer was the victim of a targeted shooting. Covering the end of an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Geneva, the crowd, Smallman amongt them, was suddenly surrounded and confronted by several units of German police, operating under Swiss command. During the ensuing chaos, which independent reports state was created and provoked by the police, Smallman was shot at close range by a concussion grenade. This attack left him hospitalised, with severe injuries to his left calf muscle. He will take up to 18 months to recover full mobility, or at least get close to it.
A spokesman for the UK National Union of Journalists stated, “Once again police seized the opportunity of public disorder to target a working journalist. We are making a strong protest to the Swiss government which apparently invited in the police of a foreign power to attack a demonstration.”
These incredible incidents are just four of the best documented and publicised amongst a myriad of similar episodes. In all, the Swiss state has shown itself to be complicit to the growing scale of human rights abuses worldwide, perpetrated in the name of neo liberal economic rationalism, liberty and justice.
We demand the Swiss state demonstrates itself to be an accountable body, a body with the desire and will to hold its forces and employees accountable. We demand the Swiss state adheres to its responsibilities under international law and protocol.
It is a fundamental of any democratic state to nurture an environment positive towards all forms of political dialogue, protest and action. It is a fundamental of any self respecting democratic state that it nurtures an environment of positive encouragement towards all forms of independent and free media, and the uninhibited flow of political information. In recent weeks, as in the past, Switzerland has shown itself reluctant, if not opposed, to the implementation of these and other basic human values.
In the next few weeks the Swiss Government, and its Cantonal seats will be presented with complete and full dossiers, which will include all the human rights violations recorded during the events and protests against the G8 summit. We expect and demand that this dossier is treated with respect, and that the information there in are acted upon in accordance with and in the spirit of The United Nations Universal Declarations of Human Rights.
We demand justice and accountability. We demand our rights under international law. We shall not be silenced. Not by violence, not by intimidation, and not by coercion.
Signed by [Various]
International Protest Intensifies in Wake of G8 Summit Violence.
On Monday the 23rd of June (today) protesters in many countries visited Swiss consulates and Embassies to voice their outrage at the political repression and police brutality during the recent G8 meeting. These visits to Swiss consulates are the latest actions in a continuing wave of international protest, sweeping through countries in three continents.
Today’s simultaneous international protests were made by a diverse coalition of human rights lawyers, politicians, journalists and civil rights campaigners. A list of demands were presented to the Swiss Authorities (below) which include a call for an independent public enquiry into the security and policing strategy surrounding the G8 summit.
These protests mark an intensification of pressure on the Swiss Authorities, following on the heels of a week-long climbing occupation of the Swiss Consulate in Barcelona. From June 13th to 20th, two activists hung from the twelve storey consulate on a hunger strike. The action was mounted when compensation claims by those injured as a result of police brutality, and demands for an independent enquiry into police accountability were met by apathy from the Swiss Authorities.
Throughout the days of the summit, testimonies recorded from independent witnesses described as ‘commonplace’ cases of violent beatings, unprovoked attacks of protesters and mass arrests at legal gatherings. There were also several well-documented cases of more serious violence and brutality. A climbing rope, supporting two climbers was cut, leading to serious injuries being sustained by Martin Shaw and the targeted shooting with a concussion grenade, of Guy Smallman, an independent journalist,
Shaw is still in hospital after having fallen from a height of over twenty meters. He suffers from a broken back, pelvis and ankle, amongst other injuries. Shaw and other activists present at the blockade intend to criminally prosecute the police, and sue for compensation. Smallman, having undergone reconstructive surgery to his calf, could take up to 18 months to recover full mobility. He was shot in the leg with a concussion grenade, whilst fleeing a police attack. Smallman is also taking legal counsel, with help from the National Union of Journalists.
The protests are continuing to demand the following of the Swiss Authorities;
· That the Swiss Authorities immediately open, and cooperate with, an independent public enquiry into the complete policing and security policy surrounding the G8 summit, and that they implement fully its recommendations. The enquiry body should be monitored or implemented by the legal commission ‘Basic Human Rights and Globalization’.
· That the relevant and responsible Swiss Authorities fully cover all medical and legal costs incurred by those so seriously injured in episodes of police brutality as to need long term medical treatment. This must include payment of all justifiable compensation.
· The immediate suspension of the police officers responsible, and their commanders on scene at the time during the incidents of the cutting of the climbing rope during the Aubonne bridge blockade (which caused the severe injuries of Martin Shaw) and the targeted shooting of independent journalist Guy Smallman.
NOTES TO EDITOR
Attached is a copy of the letter presented to the Swiss Federal Government, and the Cantonal Seats of Vaud and Geneva.
More info and to arrange comment or interviews from Martin Shaw, call 00 41 (0) 787413116, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More info and comment from independent journalist Guy Smallman, contact 0044 (0) 2077357055
Exclusive and unexclusive pictures and video available. These include pictures from Aubonne Bridge climbing action, Guy Smallman’s shooting, and pictures of their injuries... contact email@example.com or call 0041 (0) 787413116