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The Council of Europe's anti-torture Committee publishes a report on Switzerland

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published its report on the periodic visit to Switzerland carried out from 22 March to 1 April 2021, together with the response of the Swiss authorities. The visit focused on the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons, police establishments, psychiatric institutions and certain facilities for foreign nationals in seven different cantons of the Confederation. The report highlights good practices but also notes that structural problems remain, especially in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
08/06/2022
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The Council of Europe's anti-torture Committee publishes a report on Switzerland

On the subject of law enforcement, the CPT has received a number of complaints of excessive use of force by police officers and recommends that action to prevent police violence be enhanced.

The Committee considers that the practice, which was observed in two police stations visited in Vaud, of using police premises for weeks beyond the legal time-limit for carrying out pre-trial detention or executing sentences is unacceptable. The situation was aggravated by a combination of poor conditions of detention and a very poor detention regime. The delegation had asked the Swiss authorities to take immediate action to put an end to this practice. The CPT also requests that the authorities strengthen safeguards against ill-treatment and remove without delay the restraint chairs/beds in some police premises.

As regards persons on remand or serving custodial sentences, the CPT did not receive any allegations of physical ill-treatment by prison staff in the establishments visited.

However, prison overcrowding remains a considerable problem in the prisons visited in French-speaking Switzerland. This results in deplorable material conditions for both the prisoners and the prison staff and has a negative impact on the type of activity regime offered. Moreover, the situation in terms of activity regime has not improved for most persons on remand detention, who still often spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells. In contrast, in the canton of Zurich, adult remand prisoners can now benefit from an adequate regime as well as some occupational activities and association time. This example should be followed.

The Committee remains concerned about the federal legislation governing the penal status of juveniles (DPMin), which provides that establishments intended for the detention of juveniles may hold both juveniles and (young) adults up to the age of 25 together in the same accommodation wing. This is not only contrary to the CPT's standards, but also to the general criterion of separation of adults and juveniles, as enshrined in international treaty law.

Despite the efforts made by the Swiss authorities to increase the accommodation capacity for persons subject to institutional therapeutic treatment or preventive detention measures, the Committee regrets that the number of specialised places is still insufficient when compared to needs. Consequently, persons with psychiatric disorders continue to be held in non-specialised establishments which are not fit for this purpose. However, the psychiatric treatment of prisoners with mental health problems in the crisis intervention unit, as observed in Limmattal Prison, can be considered good practice and should be extended to other cantons. In addition, at Solothurn Prison, the CPT notes positively the innovative approach of two pilot projects concerning the implementation of an integration regime and a small-scale preventive detention regime on a trial basis for persons subject to measures.

The CPT recommends that the Swiss authorities give priority to the therapeutic aspect, while taking into account necessary security measures. In particular, the possibility of relaxation of the regime leading to the eventual prospect of release should be guaranteed.

In their response to the report, the Swiss authorities provide detailed information on the recommendations made by the CPT. In particular, the Swiss Federal Council indicates that the matter of preventing police violence is given all due attention and stresses that ill-treatment by members of the Swiss police force is not tolerated. Finally, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) pays specific attention to the situation of asylum seekers at the Federal Centre for Asylum Seekers (CFA) in Boudry. Following the CPT visit, the conclusions of an external investigation and an internal audit were published. The SEM also informed the Committee that it took the accusations of violence against asylum seekers seriously and that it would take appropriate action in the event of any violations by external staff or service providers (such as security).


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Preventing torture in Europe
www.cpt.coe.int

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