Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Office of the Attorney General investigates whether security force killings were justifiable and pursues prosecutions.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were isolated reports that individual police officers used excessive force while making arrests and that prison staff engaged in degrading treatment of detainees. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Notwithstanding some inadequate and overcrowded facilities, prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards. There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding in the western part of the country remained a problem. Overcrowding at the 400-inmate capacity Geneva Champ-Dollon Prison was eliminated during the year with the population reported to be 398 inmates. In its Activity Report 2020, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) noted an inadequate number of telephone booths and inmates held in their cells for 23 hours a day were continuing deficiencies.
The incidence of suicide remained an area of concern in detention centers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide attempts in prisons increased by 57 percent. A 2020 study by the Swiss Competence Center for Human Rights (SCHR) cited lengthy pretrial detention, solitary confinement, and physical and mental health care as major concerns. According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Humanrights.ch, three-quarters of convicted persons with mental health conditions were sent to detention facilities rather than psychiatric clinics due to a lack of treatment options.
Administration: There was no ombudsman or comparable authority available at the national level to respond to complaints, but a number of cantons maintained cantonal ombudsmen and mediation boards that acted on behalf of prisoners and detainees to address complaints related to their detention.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of conditions in prisons and asylum reception centers by local and international human rights groups, media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2020 the NCPT visited 19 facilities, including detention centers and asylum detention centers. In March the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture carried out a periodic visit to the country.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
By law police must apprehend criminal suspects based on warrants issued by a duly authorized official unless responding to a specific and immediate danger. In most instances authorities may not hold a suspect more than 24 hours before bringing the suspect before a prosecutor or investigating magistrate, who must either formally charge a detainee or order his or her release. The law allows police to detain minors between ages 10 and 18 for a “minimal period” but does not explicitly state the length. Without an arraignment or arrest warrant, police may detain young offenders for a maximum of 24 hours (48 hours during weekends). Authorities respected these rights.
Immigration authorities may detain asylum seekers and other inadequately documented foreigners up to 96 hours without an arrest warrant.
There is a functioning bail system, and courts grant release on personal recognizance or bail unless the magistrate believes the person charged to be dangerous or a flight risk. Alternatives to bail include having suspects report to probation officers and imposing restraining orders on suspects. Authorities may deny a suspect legal counsel at the time of detention or initial questioning, but the suspect has the right to choose and contact an attorney before being charged. The state provides free legal assistance for indigents charged with crimes punishable by imprisonment. The law allows police to detain minors between ages 10 and 18 for a “minimal period” but does not explicitly state the length of detention permissible.
Pretrial Detention: According to the SCHR, lengthy pretrial detention continued. Approximately 46 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention due to COVID-19 pandemic-induced court closures. By law pretrial detention may not exceed the length of the expected sentence for conviction of the crime for which a suspect is charged.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Trials are public and held without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to be present at their trial. They have the right to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner, and the courts may provide an attorney at public expense if a defendant faces serious criminal charges. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They have the right to confront and question witnesses, and to present witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court. Prison sentences for convicted youths up to age 15 may not exceed one year. For convicted offenders between ages 16 and 18, sentences may be up to four years. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all defendants.
Military courts may try civilians charged with revealing military secrets, such as divulging classified military documents or classified military locations and installations. There were no reports that military courts tried any civilians during the year.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens have access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.
Property Seizure and Restitution
The government reported that Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant problem and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities. Jewish communities in the country confirmed there were no pending real or immovable property claims. There remained much art in the country with unresearched provenance as many museums and art collections were under the purview of cantons rather than the federal government or were maintained by private organizations and private individuals.
The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress can be found on the Department’s website at: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.