International Feedback: Police

In this section you find selected citations from responses to Switzerland by international human rights bodies on the topics police violence and complaints units:

Committee against torture CAT

«The Committee is concerned by allegations of violence or the excessive use of force or other mistreatment by the police during the questioning of suspects in their homes or in police stations. The Committee is particularly concerned by the fact that some of these allegations mention an excessive use of force against foreigners, especially asylum-seekers and migrants, above all of African origin, and particularly in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud (arts. 2, 12, 13, 14 and 16). The State party must ensure that prompt, thorough and impartial inquiries are held into all allegations of violence or mistreatment by police, that the perpetrators are prosecuted and, if proven guilty, punished in proportion to the seriousness of their acts, that victims receive compensation and, where appropriate, rehabilitation. The State party must also continue training police officials and raising their awareness of human rights and, in particular, of the provisions of the Convention. In its next report, it must inform the Committee of any ongoing investigations and their outcome.»

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«The Committee notes that, in the State party, complaints of police violence, torture and mistreatment may be brought before the ordinary courts. Nevertheless, it is concerned that the State party has not yet fully implemented the Committee’s recommendation to establish, in each canton, independent mechanisms of investigation to deal with complaints of violence or mistreatment lodged against police officials. It reminds the State party that the possibility of seeking remedy in the ordinary courts should not prevent the establishment of such mechanisms (arts. 2, 12 and 16). The State party must ensure the creation in each canton of an independent mechanism empowered to receive any complaints of violence or mistreatment on the part of the police and to investigate them promptly, thoroughly and impartially.»

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«The Committee reiterates its concern that only a minority of complaints of violence or mistreatment by the police result in prosecutions or charges being brought and that only a few lead to compensation being offered to victims or their families (arts. 2, 12 and 13). The State party must systematically conduct impartial, thorough and effective inquiries into all allegations of violence committed by the police, and prosecute and punish the perpetrators in proportion to the seriousness of their acts. It should also ensure that victims or their families receive compensation. The State party should inform the Committee of the outcome of current proceedings.»

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«Take measures to compile, at national level, disaggregated data relating to the cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment, in particular in the context of the application of the law on asylum and the law on foreigners, as well as to the outcomes of any investigations and prosecutions that might be pursued.»

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«Ensure that all complaints for acts of ill-treatment are properly and effectively investigated and that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and if found guilty sanctioned accordingly. Victims and their families should be informed of their right to pursue compensation and procedures should be made more transparent. In this regard, the State party should provide written information to the Committee on the steps taken to compensate the families of the two victims of the two recent cases of death caused during forcible deportation.»

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«Encourage all cantons to establish independent mechanisms entrusted to receive complaints against members of the police regarding cases of torture or ill-treatment.»

Human Rights Committee CCPR

«The Committee is concerned about reports of police brutality against persons during arrest or detention, in particular against asylum-seekers and migrants. It remains concerned about the lack in most cantons of independent mechanisms to investigate complaints lodged against the police. In this regard, the Committee reiterates that the possibility of filing a complaint before a court should not preclude the creation of such mechanisms. The Committee is also concerned with the generally low rate of minorities in the police force, despite the high percentage of minorities in the population at large. (art. 7) The State party should ensure that all cantons create an independent mechanism with authority to receive and effectively investigate all complaints of excessive use of force, ill-treatment or other abuses by the police. All perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished, and victims compensated. The State party should create a national statistical database on complaints lodged against the police. The State party should also increase efforts to ensure that minorities are adequately represented in the police forces.»

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance ECRI

«ECRI recommends that the Swiss authorities ensure that all members of the police, whether already in active service or in initial training, follow training and awareness-raising courses regarding the need to combat racism and racial discrimination in policing, including racial profiling. It recommends that structures be set up to enable the exchange of good practice in this field between the various police forces at the federal, cantonal and municipal levels. With regard to these issues and all other issues of relevance to the police, ECRI draws attention to its General Policy Recommendation No. 11 on combating racism and racial discrimination in policing, which gives guidelines concerning the measures to be taken in this field.»

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«ECRI recommends that the Swiss authorities establish a body, or several bodies, independent of the police and the public prosecution service, which would be responsible for investigating all presumed cases of racial discrimination and racist misconduct by the police. It should be ensured that a body of this kind exists for all the cantons. ECRI also urges the authorities to ensure that, where applicable, the perpetrators of these acts are sanctioned in a public and appropriate manner.»

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«ECRI encourages the authorities to ensure that bodies to assist and advise victims of racism and discrimination are set up at cantonal level, and coordinated at the central level.»

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«ECRI recommends that firm measures be taken to deal with the problem of police mistreatment of persons from minority groups. A first important step would be the introduction of a system of independent investigation into all allegations of police mistreatment, be it at the federal or cantonal level.»

Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

«Rejected recommendation: Minorities should be recruited for police and bodies have to be created which investigate complaints of excessive use of force. (Individual translation)»

Committee on the Elimination of Racism CERD

«The Committee notes with concern the increase in reports of alleged excessive use of force by the police within the territory of the State party, in particular against black persons. (art. 4 (a) and (c)) The Committee urges the State party to take firm measures to eradicate all forms of racially discriminatory practice and excessive use of force by the police and in particular: (a) establish an independent mechanism for the investigation of complaints concerning the actions of law enforcement officials; (b) initiate disciplinary and criminal proceedings against alleged perpetrators, ensuring that the sanctions imposed are proportionate to the gravity of the offence, and grant appropriate remedy for victims; (c) continue its efforts to provide relevant training to the police, including in cooperation with the Federal Commission against Racism; (d) consider recruiting members of minorities into the police force; and (e) consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.»

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«Allegations of police abuse and excessive use of force against persons of foreign origin during arrest or in the course of deportations are also of concern. The Committee notes that many cantons do not have independent mechanisms for investigation of complaints regarding violence and abuse by the police, and that sanctions against responsible officers have been rare. The State party should ensure that independent bodies with authority to investigate complaints against police officers are established in all cantons. Efforts should also be made to recruit members of minority groups into the police and to provide sensitization and training of police officers on issues of racial discrimination.»

UN Special Rapporteur on Racism

«With regard to incidents of police violence, the Special Rapporteur wishes to remind the federal and cantonal authorities of their obligations under international norms for the protection of human rights, which apply to everyone without distinction. In this regard, he strongly recommends, pending the establishment of the aforementioned federal commission, the creation of independent mechanisms to investigate allegations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance by various bodies and administrations at the federal, cantonal and communal levels.»

Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe

 «Another complaint – which I hear increasingly frequently in Council of Europe member states – concerns unacceptable behaviour on the part of the police against persons of foreign appearance. In the case of Switzerland, the most common complaint about police behavior concerns the practice of tossing a person’s papers at their feet rather than handing them back; when challenged about their behaviour, the officers involved claim the papers simply slipped out of their hands. There have also, however, been allegations of verbal and even physical abuse, involving patently wrongful or disproportionate use of force. Such behaviour, which is directed mainly against dark-skinned people, has been reported to me not only by the victims but also by Swiss «natives» – of all ages, backgrounds and political beliefs – who said they were deeply shocked by what they had seen. It appears, too, that no firm action is taken when complaints of racism are made against the police. According to NGOs, none of the 134 complaints filed in 2004 in the canton of Geneva concerning racist abuse was properly investigated and all of the files have been closed.»

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«As well as schemes of this kind, I believe there is also an urgent need to review the procedures available to individuals who suffer or witness racist violence on the part of police officers (or other officials), so that they can file a complaint quickly without risk of reprisals. This complaints route would be in addition to the option of going to court, which victims and witnesses are often loath to do because they are afraid or because of the difficulty of proving allegations against sworn public servants. The kind of arrangements that I have in mind are non-judicial ones, involving persons who are independent from the authorities and who enjoy considerable moral authority among the public at large as well as the authorities. One option would be to have ombudspersons, whose job would thus be to notify the competent authorities of any abuse which they might find to have been committed, based on the information received.»

Committee on the Rights of the Child CRC

«The Committee endorses the recommendations made by the Committee against Torture in that regard (A/53/44, para. 94) and, in light of article 37 of the Convention, recommends that the State party: (a) Set up child-sensitive mechanisms in all cantons to receive complaints against law-enforcement officers regarding ill-treatment during arrest, questioning and police custody.»

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