No evidence of abuse at Zurich detention unit

The transit zone at Zurich airport holds foreigners who have been refused entry Keystone

A Council of Europe report has found no evidence of torture or serious abuse at Zurich airport's detention centres, but claims conditions could be improved.

This content was published on December 13, 2004 - 15:54

The Swiss government has welcomed the findings and has pledged to act on the recommendations next year.

The report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) was published on Monday and covered the committee’s visit to Switzerland in October 2003.

During the five-day visit, committee members inspected the section of the prison at Zurich airport that holds foreign nationals awaiting deportation.

They also examined the transit zone at Zurich airport where those refused entry to Switzerland are detained.

Although the CPT found that there was no evidence of torture or serious abuse at both sites, it issued several recommendations to help improve conditions.

It suggested that medical examinations should be offered to people who had been the subject of a failed expulsion attempt.

The report added there should be more training for police on the risks of asphyxia during restraining procedures.

A previous report published in 2002 condemned Switzerland's policy of forcibly repatriating foreigners. It said the practice was an example of “inhuman and degrading” treatment.


In their response released on Monday, the government and the Zurich cantonal authorities said they were satisfied with the report.

They indicated that they had taken numerous steps to implement the CPT’s recommendations concerning forced expulsions.

The government said those held in the transit zone at Zurich airport for a “prolonged period” would be allowed a daily “fresh-air break” from the beginning of 2005.

At present, those requesting to go outside have to ask permission.

But the Swiss authorities did not accept all of the CPT’s findings. They rejected allegations that the prison was overcrowded and that suicide and self-mutilation were rife.

At the beginning of this month, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner visited Switzerland and expressed “serious concerns” about human-rights abuses.

He highlighted prison overcrowding and the plight of rejected asylum seekers in particular.

Alvaro Gil-Robles is due to present his findings to the Council of Europe in February next year.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss government gave its response to a report from the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee on Monday.

The committee visited Zurich airport prison and the transit zone at the airport last October.

The Swiss welcomed the report but also announced some improvements in conditions for foreigners held at the airport.

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