Compulsory social measures: the long way to rehabilitation
In 2014, the victims of compulsory social measures successfully launched a popular initiative focusing on rehabilitation. In early December 2015, the Federal Council passed a counter-proposal to this initiative which was accepted by both chambers of Swiss parliament on 30 September 2016.
The counter-proposal fulfilled the main demands of the authors of the initiative. It will not only provide a scientific analysis of what happened, but will also provide for a one-time contribution of CHF 300 million.
After the two chambers of parliament accepted the counter-proposal, the authors of the initiative withdrew their referendum. Although they are calling for higher funding, they see advantages in the counter-proposal. In particular, the indirect counter-proposal does not need a constitutional amendment to be implemented, so it can be implemented much more quickly than a popular initiative which would have to be debated and a constitutional change would be needed. This allows older victims to be compensated in time.
Furthermore, on 22 February 2017, the Federal Council launched a new National Research Programme on welfare and coercion.
- Parlament verabschiedet Gegenvorschlag
Article on the Reparation Initiative website, 3 October 2016 (in German)
- Wiedergutmachung für Opfer von fürsorgerischen Zwangsmassnahmen
Federal Council media release, 4 December 2015 (in German)
- Botschaft zur Wiedergutmachungsinitiative und zum Gegenvorschlag
Initiative committee media release, 4 December 2015 (in German)
The counter-proposal: recognition and financial support
The Reparation Initiative was submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery by its authors on 19 December 2014 along with 110,000 signatures. The authors specifically called for historical analysis of the topic and for a fund of CHF 500 million for heavily affected victims.
In a media release on 24 June 2015, the Federal Council wrote that the counter-proposal accepted the injustice that had been done to the victims of compulsory social measures and people forced into foster families. The initiative committee also found that the counter-proposal regulates the requirements for payment of financial benefits totalling CHF 300 million in favour of the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 victims. Because the Confederation had assumed a lower number of subsidy requests than the authors of the initiative, it only proposed CHF 300 million instead of CHF 500 million.
The Federal Council also stated in the press release that the chosen strategy to use an indirect counter-proposal would allow the event to be reassessed more quickly than if a legal revision was required. This way, the maximum amount of people would benefit from an acknowledgement of their trauma and from compensation in spite of their old age and fragile state of health.
These benefits convinced the authors to withdraw their initiative after Parliament accepted the Federal Council’s suggestion, on the condition that no referendum will be held. The referendum period ended on 26 January 2017, allowing the law to enter into force on 1 April 2017.
The victims of the compulsory social measures have been allowed to submit requests for a one-time contribution as of 1 December 2016.
- Wiedergutmachung für Opfer von fürsorgerischen Zwangsmassnahmen
Documentation on the Federal Office of Justice website (in German)
- The solidarity contribution
Federal Office of Justice website with application form
- Reparation Initiative
Information on the initiative committee website (in German)
Website of victims of compulsory social measures
Compulsory social measures that violated human rights
The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) defines “compulsory social measures” as various kinds of decisions made by local authorities that were common practice up to about 1981. These include measures that led to drastic interventions in the lives of the affected persons without granting them even minimal procedural rights. For example, children were sent to foster families, men and women were sent to prison, and people underwent forced sterilization or were forced to give their children up for adoption (for information on the background and the issue, see the article: Ein Vergehen gegen die Menschenrechte: Fürsorgerische Zwangsmassnahmen nach altem Recht).
Locked away men and women finally rehabilitated by law
On 1 August 2014, a law entered into force rehabilitating all persons who were locked away for administrative reasons. The act has its origins in a parliamentary initiative launched by Paul Rechsteiner in 2011 and was replaced by the new law on 1 April 2017.
In early November 2014, the Federal Council decided to assess the impact of these past practices. It set up a commission to research the administrative placements and the effects they had on their victims. The commission is chaired by lawyer and former Director of Justice of the canton of Zurich and lawyer Markus Notter (SP). Other members include historians Thomas Huonker, Martin Lengwiler, Anne-Françoise Praz and Loretta Seglias as well as psychiatrist Jacques Gasser, canton of Zurich registrar Beat Gnädinger, legal expert Lukas Gschwend and Gisela Hauss from the School of Social Work in Olten. This commission began its work in 2015 and is scheduled to finish the project in 2018.
Furthermore, on 22 February 2017, the Federal Council launched a new National Research Programme entitled “Welfare and coercion – past, present and future”. According to the Federal Council media release, “the programme aims, from a historical perspective, to investigate the social effects and impacts of welfare and coercion (including cases of persons not undergoing administrative measures) and to generate new findings.”
- Bundesrat lanciert neues Nationales Forschungsprogramm zum Thema “Fürsorge und Zwang“
Federal Council media release, 22 February 2017 (in German)
- Ausgegrenzt und weggesperrt: Wie und warum?
Website of the Independent Expert Commission on Compulsory Social Measures (in German)
- Markus Notter präsidiert Kommission zur wissenschaftlichen Aufarbeitung der administrativen Versorgungen
Federal Council media release, 5 November 2014 (in German)
- Administrativ versorgte Menschen werden rehabilitiert
Media release by the Federal Council, 21 May 2014 (in German)
- Bundesgesetz über die Rehabilitierung administrativ versorgter Menschen
Federal law of 21 March 2014 (pdf, 2 pages in German)
- Rehabilitierung adminstrativ versorgter Menschen (11.431)
Parliamentary initiative by Paul Rechsteiner (in German)
- Vom Umgang mit vergangenem Unrecht. Wie die Schweiz nach neuen Wegen sucht, historische Menschenrechtsverletzungen wiedergutzumachen
SCHR newsletter, 30 June 2014 (in German)
The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) appointed Luzius Mader as delegate for the victims of compulsory social measures. His website contains all the necessary information on steps that are currently being taken to research the past and provide compensation. Similar contact points for affected persons have also been set up on a cantonal level.
- Delegierter für Opfer fürsorgerischer Zwangsmassnahmen
Website of the delegate for the victims of compulsory social measures (in German)
In 2013, the FDJP introduced a round table for the victims of compulsory social measures. The round table coordinates the reappraisal of all historical, legal, financial, socio-political and organisational issues related to compulsory social measures and is presided over by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga and her delegate Luzius Mader. Groups participating in the round table include victims, cantons, communities, towns, institutions, commissions and the scientific community.
Fund for immediate aid
At the initiative of the round table, a fund for immediate aid for victims experiencing economic hardship was established in February 2014. Between the summer of 2014 and July 2015 the fund was administered by the Swiss Solidarity Chain and collected the applications of victims in need. According to a media release by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) of 5 July 2016, 1,117 victims of compulsory social measures have received a total of CHF 8.7 million in immediate assistance over a period of two years. The emergency aid benefits serve as provisional assistance until a legal basis for the reappraisal of the past has been created.
- 8,7 Millionen Soforthilfe für Opfer von fürsorgerischen Zwangsmassnahmen
Federal Department of Justice and Police media release, 5 July 2016 (in German)
- Soforthilfe für Opfer von fürsorgerischen Zwangsmassnahmen: erste Bilanz
Federal Council media release, 9 July 2015 (in German)
- Fürsorgerische Zwangsmassnahmen: Finanzielle Soforthilfe gut angelaufen
Media release by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), 29 December 2014 (in German)
- Informationen und Link auf Liste der kantonalen Anlaufstellen
Information on the website of the delegate for the victims of compulsory social measures (in German)
- Lotto-Millionen für Verdingkinder und Versorgte
Article in TagesAnzeiger, 27 January 2014
The round table for the victims of compulsory social measures passed a report in July 2014 with a list of measures addressed to the political authorities. It recommends financial support for the victims as well as counselling, comprehensive collection and preservation of relevant records and access to all files, and a scientific and academic analysis of this dark chapter of Swiss social history.
- Informationen zum Runden Tisch und zur Soforthilfe
Information letter of the Federal Commission for Women’s Issues FCWI, July 2014 (pdf, 2 pages in German)
- Runder Tisch auf Kurs
Media release by the Federal Office of Justice FOJ, 6 June 2014
- 300 Millionen für ehemalige Verdingkinder
Article on NZZ-Online, 15 September 2016
- Solidaritätszahlungen für Opfer fürsorgerischer Zwangsmassnahmen und Fremdplatzierungen
Reparation Initiative website, 23 December 2016
- Procedural law file
Government website containing information on administratively placed persons (in German)
- Procedural law concerning women
Website of the Federal Commission for Women’s Issues FCWI containing information on administratively placed women
- Administrativ Versorgte sollen rehabilitiert werden
Article on NZZ-Online, 25 February 2013 (in German)
- Eine "Bergier"-Kommission für Zwangsversorgte
Article on Infosperber, 21 November 2012 (in German)
- Recognising Switzerland’s “slave children”
Article on swissinfo, 9 April 2013
- Ein Grundrechtslehrbuch, einmal anders
Article on the legal blog “Recht Brauchbar“, 30 August 2010 (in German)
- Zur Erziehung ins Gefängnis
Article in Der Beobachter magazine 06/08 (pdf, 3 pages in German)
- Rehabilitation verweigert
Article in Der Beobachter magazine 18/09 (pdf, 2 pages in German)
- “Was sie mit uns gemacht haben”
Article in Der Beobachter magazine 20/08 (pdf, 3 pages in German)
- Moralische Wiedergutmachung
Interpellation 09.3440 by Jacqueline Fehr, documented on the parliamentary services website (in German)
- Switzerland's stolen Generation
Article on SBS, 15 May 2012
- Mise au Point. Invitée : Ursula Biondi, ex détenue administrative.
Report on RTS.ch, 13 May 2012 (in French)
- Die alte Zeit war nicht gut
Article in TagesAnzeiger, 1 September 2010 (pdf, 4 pages in German)