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Amnesty lambasts Swiss police

Switzerland has come in for harsh criticism from Amnesty International for "dangerous methods of restraint" used during forcible deportations of illegal immigrants from Zurich-Kloten airport.

Switzerland has come in for harsh criticism from Amnesty International for "dangerous methods of restraint" used during forcible deportations of illegal immigrants from Zurich-Kloten airport.

In one case, three police officers and a doctor are under investigation in connection with the death by suffocation of a Palestinian deportee one year ago.

In a report entitled "Concerns in Europe," the human rights organization alleges Zurich airport police have used "cruel, degrading or dangerous" methods to restrain illegal immigrants being forcibly sent home.

In the case of the Palestinian, Khaled Abu Zarifeh, Nerys Lee of Amnesty International said "...adhesive tape had been placed over his mouth...and he had been strapped into a wheelchair..." for the duration of his flight home.

Other deportees "reported having breathing difficulties as a result of adhesive tape being put across their mouths and having a helmet, which they described as being similar to a motorcycle helmet, put over their head with more adhesive tape wrapped around and over the helmet so that their jaws were forced closed. A number of deportees reported being deprived of food and liquid and not having access to a lavatory for many hours," explained Nerys Lee.


Last August, the Zurich cantonal authorities indicated to Amnesty that adhesive tape would no longer be used to cover deportees' mouths and confirmed that a new open-faced helmet would now be used. But Amnesty discredited the helmet arguing it still prevents the wearer from breathing normally. "It has a chin cap attached to force the jaws of the individual together to stop them shouting or biting...and a plate is placed across the mouth and it has a small hole where a breathing tube can be inserted."

Lee explained that they have consulted forensic pathologists "who have expressed great concern about anything which blocks the breathing passages."

The federal police have yet to respond to the latest Amnesty accusations but have admitted that certain "methods of restraints applied to persons to be removed to another country may have the opposite effect leading in certain cases to recalcitrant or even violent behaviour."

During 1999, nearly 6,500 rejected illegal immigrants and asylum seekers were deported from Zurich-Kloten airport, according to the Federal Office for Refugees.

by Samantha Tonkin

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