Cablegate: Swiss Thank Usg for Intervention with Libya, Request Additional Support
OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
DE RUEHTRO #0901 3141608
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 101608Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5460
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6009
S E C R E T TRIPOLI 000901
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR/CE E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SZ LY
SUBJECT: SWISS THANK USG FOR INTERVENTION WITH LIBYA, REQUEST ADDITIONAL SUPPORT REF: A) TRIPOLI 763; B) TRIPOLI 900; C) TRIPOLI 832
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(U) This is an action request; see para 6.
2.(S/NF) Summary: Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto briefed the Ambassador November 10 on the unexpected November 9 release of the two Swiss citizens detained by the Libyan government since September 19 (ref A). Describing the conditions in which the Swiss were kept since being taken into Libyan custody, Lazarotto reported that while most of their needs were met, they were kept in isolation and were denied requests to contact their families and Swiss authorities. Hours before meeting the Ambassador, Lazarotto was contacted by the GOL with a court date for the individuals, as well as a request to arrange a call between Libyan MFA Assistant Secretary-equivalent for International Cooperation, Khaled Kaim, and the Swiss State Secretary, Michael Ambuhl. Lazarotto thanked the USG and Ambassador for their intervention and requested the Ambassador's presence at the upcoming court hearing. End Summary.
3.(S/NF) During a November 10 meeting with the Ambassador and Pol/Econ Chief, Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto provided additional details regarding the treatment of the two Swiss citizens who had been detained since September 19. Lazarotto said that the individuals unexpectedly appeared at his embassy on November 9 without prior warning and without any explanation from Libyan authorities (ref B). They reported that they had been well-fed and had all of their needs met while in detention -- including television and I-Pod (loaded with Libyan music) access; however, they were denied their requests to contact their families and the Swiss Embassy. According to Lazarotto, the individuals were transported to a location -- probably in the Tripoli suburb of Suraj -- that they could not identify. Once there, they were kept in isolation and were only allowed to see one another three times, via an exercise room that connected their rooms. They described their rooms as sparse, containing only beds and television sets. A plain-clothes guard force monitored the premises where they were being confined. Lazarotto said that the Libyans had provided them medical care and treatment for high blood pressure, including medicine that the Swiss Embassy provided through the GOL.
4.(S/NF) Lazarotto reported that the Deputy Director of the European Affairs Department at the Libyan MFA contacted him on November 10 to say that a court date would be set for the Swiss citizens one week hence, and to remind him of the charges that would be raised in the trial - namely, lack of proper residency permits. The official also requested that a phone call be quickly arranged between Khaled Kaim, MFA A/S-equivalent for International Cooperation, and Swiss State Secretary Michael Ambuhl to discuss a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on the way forward.
5.(S/NF) Lazarotto told the Ambassador that Bern was deliberately keeping the Swiss Embassy, including Lazarotto himself, uninformed on Swiss discussions with third countries regarding the Swiss-Libya situation. However, he relayed that Bern requested that the Ambassador, as well as the Italian, French and other ambassadors to Libya, be present during the court hearing for the Swiss to remind the Libyans that they could not do anything under the "cover of darkness." The Ambassador stated his inclination not to be present given the sensitive nature of his intervention on the issue and desire to stay behind the scenes. The Ambassador said that the Secretary had taken her counterpart's request seriously and had asked the Embassy to raise the issue as a humanitarian concern; however, we were disinclined to issue any public comments on what potential role we might have had. Details of the Ambassador's intervention should remain discreet, which was a key to the success of our efforts. Were those efforts to become public, the GOL may not respond to further interventions in the future. Lazaratto said Bern hoped to convey official appreciation for our efforts in the near future.
6.(S/NF) Comment and Action Request: After assessing that international attention led to the recent release, the Swiss now want to proceed with international backing for their dealings with the Libyans -- a step they arguably should have taken much earlier. To respond to the official Swiss request, Post requests a Department decision on whether the Ambassador should be present at the court hearing. Post's inclination is to keep the Ambassador away from the hearing in order to maintain the discreet nature of our sensitive interventions so as not to provoke the Libyans. End Comment. CRETZ