Border strip search violated woman’s rights, Swiss court rules

Border guards must abide by the same rules as other police officers and prison guards when performing intimate searches. Keystone/ Valentin Flauraud

Swiss border police over-stepped their authority in subjecting a woman to an intimate strip search, according to a landmark court ruling that defends personal dignity.

This content was published on September 14, 2022 minutes

The complainant, aged 36 at the time, was forced to remove clothing and endure a full body search in 2017 after Geneva border guards found a joint in the glove compartment of her car.

The woman filed a complaint for abuse and demanded compensation of CHF5,000 ($5,200), which was rejected by the Federal Administrative Court.

But Switzerland's highest court found that the search was unjustified and ruled in favour of the complainant, in a verdict published on Tuesday.

Judges ruled that the woman’s personal dignity and rights had been violated as the search was disproportionate.

The Supreme Court said that customs officials must abide by the same rules as police and prison guards when performing intimate searches – namely that there should be concrete suspicion of contraband being hidden in a person’s body.

It also ruled that justified intimate searches must be carried out by officers of the same gender, except in emergencies.

The compensation claim will now go back to the Administrative Court for a further ruling. The officers involved in the search are being investigated by the military judiciary which has jurisdiction over border police.

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