Swiss border guard found guilty in case of Syrian stillbirth

The border guard, left, with state attorneys during the trial. Keystone

A Swiss border guard has been found guilty of negligence in a case involving the stillbirth of a Syrian refugee woman whom he was escorting back to Italy in 2014.

This content was published on December 7, 2017 minutes and agencies

The verdict was handed down by a military court in Bern on Thursday. The guard, who denied any responsibility in the stillbirth, was given a suspended sentence of seven months imprisonment and a suspended fine of CHF9,000 ($9,076).

The court found him guilty of causing bodily harm by negligence, attempted termination of pregnancy, and repeated flouting of the terms of his military service.

Read in depth the background to the case

The case dates to July 2014, when the woman, her husband and their two-year old son were travelling with a group of migrants attempting to pass through Switzerland on a train from Milan to Paris. She was seven months pregnant at the time.

Stopped at the Swiss-French border in northwest Switzerland, the group was ordered to return to Italy escorted by a unit of Swiss border guards. During the bus journey towards Domodossola (on the Italian border), the woman’s waters broke early and she started bleeding. Her pleas for help, as well as those of her husband, were ignored by the Swiss border guard, the prosecution said.

The woman eventually collapsed on the train platform in Domodossola and her baby was later stillborn in an Italian hospital.

During the trial, the prosecution claimed that the guard and his subordinate officers lacked “all humanity” in their neglect of the woman’s condition; they had asked for a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Defence lawyers had demanded a full acquittal, arguing that the decision taken by the guard was made with due consideration to the time it would have taken to transfer the woman to a Swiss hospital.

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