Report challenges treatment of long-term prisoners

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Those in indefinite detention also need adequate psychological support, the commission said. © Keystone / Michael Buholzer

An anti-torture commission has criticized the fact that most of those “indefinitely imprisoned” in Switzerland – that is, those who have served their prison sentence but are not yet fit for full release – continue to be held in prison rather than in special establishments.

This content was published on October 27, 2022 – 18:33

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According to the Swiss National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (CNPT), detaining these people in ordinary prisons constitutes a violation of their human rights.

They should be provided with additional facilities such as furniture, televisions and personal video game consoles, and they should have access to a shared living room and kitchen, the NCPT said Thursday. If possible, they should be held in completely separate institutions or at least in separate areas from regular prisons, the commission said. Travel abroad and regular contact with the outside world are also recommended.

The body also said that age and personality-specific needs should be taken into account, given the high average age of people in indefinite prison sentences (over 57) and the high proportion of people suffering from mental health problems.

The notion of “unlimited imprisonment” (Article 64External link of the Swiss Penal Code) is not the same as that of a custodial sentence, specifies the commission. It applies to people who have already served a sentence behind bars, but are then deemed unfit – for public safety reasons – to be fully released. There is no punitive aspect involved.

In 2019, a hundred of these men were interned in 17 of the 26 Swiss cantons; 82 of them were detained in a prison, seven in a specialized establishment and 11 in a psychiatric establishment. Almost 70% of them were Swiss.

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