GENEVA — A Swiss federal court has ruled that Eritrean asylum-seekers who completed military service in the East African country can legally be sent home if their asylum cases are rejected in Switzerland.

The ruling by the federal administrative court in St. Gallen could have sweeping implications for thousands of Eritreans who make up the largest pool of asylum-seekers in Switzerland by nationality.

Many were once required to serve in Eritrea, whose government has faced criticism by human rights advocates over its harsh conscription laws.

In a summary of the Aug. 17 verdict made public Thursday, the court said that because such veterans had completed their service — as opposed to deserters — they “won’t necessarily expect to be summoned again for national service or punished criminally upon return to the country.”