Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
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.
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 prohibits such practices. There were isolated reports that individual police officers used excessive force and engaged in degrading treatment while making arrests.
In March the district court of Buelach in the canton of Zurich sentenced two police officers to suspended fines for abuse of authority after they used excessive force against a motorist during a road patrol check. The officers reportedly handcuffed the driver and forced him to the ground, injuring his head, spine, ribcage, and larynx, after the driver insisted on retrieving his license from the officers. The driver allegedly repeatedly called the officers’ attention to a pre-existing spinal injury during the altercation. Authorities referred the case for further review to the High Court of Zurich, where it remained pending as of November.
In 2016 the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT), an independent governmental organization, noted frequent instances of authorities partially or fully shackling individuals during deportation. Authorities also occasionally chained unruly and uncooperative individuals to wheelchairs during the deportation process.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Notwithstanding some inadequate and overcrowded facilities, prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.
Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding remained a problem. Based on the most recent available information, Geneva’s Champ-Dollon Prison was the most crowded facility, with a population greater than 170 percent of design capacity. The canton of Vaud’s La Croisee Prison had an occupancy rate of 152 percent. In the 2016 report on its 2015 visit to the country, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) found the cells in Geneva’s police station and Geneva’s Paquis police station so small that they should be used only for short periods.
In its 2016 report, the CPT noted inadequate health care in the prisons at La Farera, La Stampa, and in Schwyz. In July the NCPT’s seventh annual report focused on detention centers’ psychiatric facilities, citing the absence of treatment plans and concerns over patients not being adequately informed of their therapy. The NGO Humanrights.ch criticized the shortage of treatment places in psychiatric facilities, which resulted in mentally ill detainees spending up to 23 hours daily in their cells with little access to external contacts. According to cantonal statistics, 269 prisoners in ordinary detention centers were awaiting assignment to a psychiatric institution. Humanrights.ch also noted that the lack of available treatment options increased the incarceration time of mentally ill inmates beyond their actual sentences. Authorities often did not grant detainees in psychiatric custody the right to free legal counsel.
In 2016 the NCPT visited detention centers in five cantons, and conducted follow-up visits in four cantons. While the commission deemed overall conditions at the institutions to be adequate, it found some prisons to be under-resourced and overcrowded. The committee criticized the La Tuiliere Prison in Vaud for recording phone conversations between prisoners and their lawyers. The committee also criticized the provisional asylum reception center in Rancate for detaining unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and reprimanded the asylum reception and processing center in Kreuzlingen for breaching international guidelines that prohibit unaccompanied minor asylum seekers from being held with adults.
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. Such resources were more readily available in the larger, more populous cantons than in smaller, less populated ones.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of conditions in prisons and asylum reception centers by local and international human rights groups, the media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The CPT carried out its latest periodic visit to the country in 2015. Local groups enjoyed a high degree of independence.
Improvements: Zurich’s airport prison increased its range of sports activities and granted inmates greater flexibility in keeping their cell doors open. The asylum reception and processing center in Kreuzlingen offered more recreational and sports activities and set up a playroom to accommodate children of migrants.
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/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The federal police maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Police report to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, while the army reports to the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sport. The State Secretariat for Migration is responsible for granting immigrant visas and residence/work permits, evaluating asylum and refugee applications, and managing deportations; it reports to the Federal Department of Justice and Police. The Swiss Border Guard is responsible for registering asylum seekers and fighting illegal migration and transborder crime; it reports to the Federal Department of Finance.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, the army, and the Swiss Border Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Cantonal state prosecutors and police generally investigated security force violence, although in some cantons the ombudsman’s office investigated such cases. In addition to its coordination and analytical responsibilities, the Federal Office of Police may pursue its own investigations under the supervision of the attorney general in cases of organized crime, money laundering, and corruption.
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 release. Immigration authorities may detain asylum seekers and other foreigners without valid documents up to 96 hours without an arrest warrant.
There is a functioning bail system, and courts granted release on personal recognizance or bail unless the magistrate believed 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 carrying a possible prison sentence. According to the CPT’s 2016 report, detainees often did not have access to a lawyer for several hours after arrest. Authorities may restrict family members’ access to prevent evidence tampering, but authorities require law enforcement officials to inform close relatives promptly of the detention. The CPT also reported that the right to inform the families of arrests “was not always recognized” and that “it was not uncommon” for the delay to last several hours. It condemned the denial of contacts, including visits and telephone calls, for up to several months for prisoners awaiting judgment.
The law allows police to detain minors between the ages of 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).
Arbitrary Arrest: There were occasional reports of arbitrary arrest. In July the federal court overturned a 2015 ruling by Zurich’s high court that suspended proceedings against three police officers accused of beating, kicking, and temporarily chaining up a gay man at a police station in 2011 after the man complained about not being able to bring harassment charges against two youths. The police officers allegedly also prevented the man from contacting his partner about bringing him his HIV medication while in custody. The federal court resubmitted the case to Zurich’s public prosecutor, where it was pending as of November.
Pretrial Detention: The NGO Humanrights.ch noted that lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, as it was in the previous year. In 2016 approximately 24 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention. The country’s highest court ruled pretrial detention must not exceed the length of the expected sentence for the crime for which a suspect is charged. Humanrights.ch commented that authorities often used pretrial detention to pressure suspects into admitting guilt.
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. Defendants 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 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. Sentences for youths up to age 15 may be for no longer than one year. For offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, sentences may be up to four years. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all citizens.
Military courts may try civilians charged with revealing military secrets, such as 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 bring 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.
The government reported that Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue 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. The Jewish communities in Switzerland confirmed that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending before authorities.
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.