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Cablegate: Swiss President Merz Apologizes to Libya For

VZCZCXRO9303
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHSW #0351/01 2360553
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 240553Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6017
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0511
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0005

2009-08-24 05:53:00 09BERN351 Embassy Bern SECRET//NOFORN VZCZCXRO9303\
PP RUEHTRO\
DE RUEHSW #0351/01 2360553\
ZNY SSSSS ZZH\
P 240553Z AUG 09\
FM AMEMBASSY BERN\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6017\
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0511\
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0005 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BERN 000351 \
\
NOFORN \
SIPDIS \
\
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR/CE (Y.SAINT-ANDRE) \
\
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/21/2024 \
TAGS: PREL PHUM ETRD SZ
SUBJECT: SWISS PRESIDENT MERZ APOLOGIZES TO LIBYA FOR \
HANNIBAL GADDAFI ARREST \
\
Classified By: POLE Counselor Richard A. Rorvig; reasons 1.4(b) and (d) \
. \
\
1. (S/NF) In a bid to win the freedom of two Swiss citizens \
who have not been permitted to leave Libya for over a year, \
Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz traveled to Tripoli August \
20 and met with Libyan Prime Minister ElBaghdadi Mahmudi. \
The unannounced visit culminated with Merz making a public \
apology for what he termed the "inappropriate and \
unnecessary" arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader \
Muammar Gaddafi, in Geneva in July 2008. Merz also signed an \
agreement with the Libyan PM seeking to "settle the dispute \
which resulted from the incident of the arrest." (Note: \
Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were arrested by Geneva \
cantonal authorities at a hotel in Geneva on July 15, 2008 \
for allegedly severely beating two of their domestic \
employees who were traveling with them. Swiss officials \
consistently have confided to post that they have not doubt \
that Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife did in fact brutally \
assault the two domestic employees. Hannibal Gaddafi and his \
wife subsequently were released from Swiss jail two days \
later, on bail of CHF 500,000 (USD 470,000). Libyan leader \
Muammar Gaddafi responded angrily to the arrest by refusing \
to allow two Swiss businessmen to depart Libya, halting \
Libyan oil exports to Switzerland, and withdrawing \
approximately CHF 5 billion (USD 4.7 billion) from Swiss \
banks. Swiss authorities dropped the charges against \
Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife in September 2008, but the \
crisis in Swiss-Libyan relations has continued. End Note) \
\
2. (SBU) Merz's public apology was the first condition of the \
agreement. In addition, per the agreement, Switzerland and \
Libya will establish an "arbital tribunal" composed of three \
members: two of the members will be from third countries, \
one appointed by Libya, and one appointed by Switzerland; the \
third tribunal member is to be selected by the two appointed \
members or by the president of the International Court of \
Justice. The arbital tribunal is to meet in London and \
examine the treatment of Hannibal Gaddafi by the Geneva \
police and other Swiss authorities. The agreement obliges \
Switzerland to pursue criminal prosecution against Swiss law \
enforcement officials, if the tribunal concludes there were \
violations of law. Switzerland also is supposed to pay \
damages to the aggrieved party (i.e., Hannibal Gaddafi) in \
cases where the tribunal determines civil or criminal \
responsibility. Though not specifically mentioned in the \
agreement, Merz has announced publicly that the GoL has \
promised to permit the two Swiss nationals under house arrest \
in Libya to leave Libya by September 1. \
\
3. (C) The agreement -- and above all public apology by Merz \
-- has been subject to wide press and political commentary. \
Merz's political rivals have accused him of humiliating \
Switzerland and making a mockery of Swiss rule of law for \
agreeing to the Libyan demands. Geneva officials have \
defended their actions in the arrest and complained loudly \
that they were not consulted ahead of time about the \
agreement that Merz signed. The Swiss press, while echoing \
some of these concerns, generally has assessed the apology \
and the agreement as a "necessary evil" to obtain the freedom \
of the two Swiss nationals. In an August 21 press conference \
in Switzerland, Merz defended his actions, saying it was \
necessary to obtain the freedom of the two Swiss nationals \
and to ensure future Swiss-Libyan economic relations. He \
underlined that the decision to go to Tripoli was his alone, \
and not the result of a Federal Council decision, but that he \
had kept the Federal Council informed and that the trip and \
the agreement had the blessing of FM Calmy-Rey. In the press \
conference, Merz struggled to qualify his implicit criticism \
of Geneva law enforcement officials without walking back his \
apology, which apparently is central to meeting Libyan \
demands. At one point, when asked how he could judge the \
arrests to have been "inappropriate" before the arbital \
tribunal has made its determinations, a frustrated Merz \
temporarily lost his patience and muttered, "I know, I did \
everything wrong yesterday." Without further comment, he \
took the next reporter's question. \
\
4. (S/NF) COMMENT: Merz has performed a precarious political \
highwire act with his trip to Libya, apology, and signing of \
the agreement. If the two Swiss nationals are, in fact, \
permitted to return home, Merz may yet emerge relatively \
unscathed from this episode. However, if Libya does not \
uphold its end of the bargain and permit the two Swiss \
nationals to depart, Merz likely will face the most serious \
crisis of his political career. END COMMENT. \
\
5.(U) Minimize considered. \
\
BERN 00000351 002 OF 002 \
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\
BEYER \

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