Switzerland slams embassy employee’s Sri Lanka detention

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Swiss foreign ministry has criticized a lack of due process in the detention of a Swiss Embassy employee in Sri Lanka who said she was abducted, sexually assaulted and threatened by captors who demanded that she disclose embassy-related information.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it has criticized a 30-hour interrogation by police of the employee, Gania Banister Francis, over three days despite her being in poor health.

A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered Francis’ detention pending charges of allegedly making statements causing disaffection toward the government and fabricating evidence.

The Swiss foreign ministry said it urges Sri Lankan authorities to follow national laws and international judicial standards to ensure its employee’s rights are better protected.

“Switzerland wishes to emphasize that in this high-profile case Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law is at stake,” said the ministry’s statement, released at around midnight Monday Sri Lanka time.

Sri Lankan officials could not be contacted immediately for comment Tuesday.

The Swiss foreign ministry has called the alleged Nov. 25 abduction of Francis a “very serious and unacceptable attack” and summoned Sri Lanka’s ambassador to demand an investigation.

The Sri Lankan government has insisted that evidence collected by its investigators did not support the sequence of events provided by the embassy, and that the allegations could have been made to bring the government into disrepute.

The Sri Lankan Attorney General’s Department told the country’s Criminal Investigations Department on Monday that there was no evidence to support Francis’ claim that she was abducted, and that she could be arrested on suspicion of causing disaffection toward the government and fabricating evidence.

It is unclear what embassy information Francis’ purported abductors tried to extract from her.

A Sri Lankan police investigator, Nishantha Silva, fled to Switzerland following a Nov. 16 election in which Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected Sri Lanka’s president.

Silva had been investigating alleged abductions, torture, killings and enforced disappearances of journalists and activists that took place while Rajapaksa was the defense chief under the presidency of his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

As defense chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was accused of overseeing what were known as “white van” abduction squads that whisked away critics. Some were returned after being tortured, while others were never seen again. He has denied the allegations.

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