January 18th 2017
An Open Letter To:
Herr. Reto Nause
Direktor für Sicherheit,
Umwelt und Energie
3000 Bern 7
Re: Disproportionate and Discriminatory Policing Of Tibetan Protest Sunday January 15th
We are writing to your office on this matter as we understand you played a prominent role in the approval and form of this demonstration. Indeed in your capacity as an official responsible for security related issues within Bern we are informed that you were in discussion with various local Tibetan Associations and imposed a number of conditions. These included limiting the demonstration to a few hours, locating it in an area of the city away from intended routes and venues used by the Chinese President and his entourage.
As you know we emailed our concerns to your office and were encouraged to note your reply (January 14) in which you offered your appreciation and acknowledgement that the demonstration would be peaceful. What you had not informed us however was that your police force had, it would seem, been authorized to apply an alarming degree of force, this became evident when video footage and news reports of events on the day appeared.
People around the world could see for themselves images of body-armored, baton carrying policemen rushing at young Tibetan women, dragging and pushing them to the ground. Tibetan flags were torn from peoples hands, banners forcibly removed and a number of protesters handcuffed and roughly handled prior to being detained.
Anyone witnessing these unfortunate scenes would be wondering what crime had been committed, was it that in Switzerland it was now a criminal act to raise a Tibetan flag, or to shout for Tibet’s freedom?
From our sources it would appear that these over-zealous and aggressive actions were prompted by some protesters running beyond the deadline which your office had imposed. That restriction itself is another matter of concern, but for the meantime the nature and level of force used by the police was entirely disproportionate. Seeing massed ranks of helmeted riot police surrounding, harassing and intimidating three young Tibetan women was just one example of the unacceptable nature of policing that took place.
There were, as evidenced by a number of video reports other disturbing incidents and we must surely ask if such draconian measures were really appropriate, given the nature of cooperation and agreement you had reached with local Tibetans?
Meanwhile there was an even darker and deeply troubling aspect of the security operation, that no doubt you were aware of, and we wonder if in your office’s preparatory discussions with Tibetans you had the courtesy to advise them that located on buildings nearby the site of the demonstration armed snipers had been placed?!
These were clearly visible and we have video evidence of a sniper with a high-velocity assault rifle, and a spotter, both of them are masked and the weapon is being trained in the direction of what was a non-violent demonstration.
Naturally the decision to allow such a potentially deadly operation would have been taken at a higher governmental level, yet we imagine as the Security Director for the city you would have been informed.
In your exchanges with local Tibetan Associations did you advise them that their already highly restricted and marginalized demonstration would be overseen by armed marksmen as an additional layer of security?
What can deduced from such a decision? That your office was endorsing the use of all necessary measures to ensure that the Chinese President’s visit would not be placed under any threat by those notoriously violent Tibetan Buddhists? It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that your authority was prepared, literally, to approve the shooting of Tibetans on the streets of Bern!
Clearly there are issues of human rights operating under such circumstances, these include the aforementioned restrictions imposed by your office, which negatively impacted upon the full enjoyment of a citizen’s right to free-speech, dissent and protest. Then there are worrying civil liberty issues arising as a consequence of the obvious authorization extended to the police to use aggressive methods upon peaceful protesters. Lastly the deployment of armed snipers, who trained high-velocity rifles on a clearly peaceful and responsible demonstration is extremely worrying.
We trust you can appreciate the magnitude of such concerns and the serious questions relating the rights of citizens, responsible policing as applying to local statute and regional and national constitutions. Lastly we would draw your attention to another iniquitous element of the measures forced upon Tibetans that day, namely that apart from the security response and measures applied being excessively aggressive and disproportionate they were also it seems entirely discriminatory.
Why do we assert this? From eye-witness reports, corroborated by a number of video bulletins, we have heard that the excessive restrictions and policing experienced by Tibetans were not applied to the considerable number of pro-China supporters. Unlike the ugly scenes of police force suffered by some Tibetans, they were left unmolested, their flags not confiscated, their placards and banners untouched. Moreover, according to the information and footage at our disposal we note that no snipers were directing weapons upon Chinese demonstrators. It maybe of course that your office is able to confirm details that snipers were targeting the orchestrated army of Chinese demonstrators, that being so we look forward to your written confirmation.
For the time being the events which took place in your city on January 15th 2017 cast an unpleasant stain upon the reputation Switzerland enjoys as a bastion of human rights, freedom and justice, the citizens of Bern and others across the country were genuinely appalled that a community long known among Swiss people as being peaceful, cooperative and forming a positive contribution towards your culture and society were treated in such a fashion.
There is much more that can be said about all this, however at this stage we invite you to present a formal response to this open communication, we request that your office addresses the issues and questions we have raised.
It is hoped that you will have the courtesy to reply, kindly address any communication to our email address and we look forward to your constructive and helpful reply.
On behalf of Tibettruth
Ms Simonetta Sommaruga, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Federal Administration Of Switzerland. Mr Didier Burkhalter, Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Federal Administration Of Switzerland. Related Human Rights Organizations And Media